by GK Strategy 19th November, 2018
2 min read

All Change Please

Train stations are no longer just places for passengers to pass through, buy tickets and rant at staff for delays that aren’t their fault. A number of pressures, including funding and housing, are driving the growth in mixed-use stations in the UK, with housing, shops, food and the railway on one plot of land.

Despite the Prime Minister’s claims to the contrary, Britain remains in the grip of austerity, with recent funding boosts to the railways being seen as inadequate for the transformative works needed. As a result, Network Rail are utilising their huge portfolio of land to fund their transformation programmes. This comes in two forms, selling off land, as seen with their recent sell-off of railway arches for £1.46 billion and working in partnership with developers to build mixed-use stations, particularly in London.

London’s scarcity of land and unabated popularity places a higher and higher premium on the large swathes of land stations take up. Network Rail have focused on large, transformative joint ventures seen at Kings Cross and Stratford. These have focused on commercial use, contributing a combined £3.1 billion per year to GDP and 56,100 permanent jobs (Table 2.1). Network Rail has also been using their land for housing for over a decade, with upcoming developments at Twickenham and Clapham Junction showcasing how both land adjacent to, and on top of, stations can be used to unlock much-needed homes.

Similarly, Transport for London (TfL) have started utilising their 5,700-acre estate to build additional housing within the capital. Compared to the land around them, London Underground stations remain greatly underdeveloped, in part due to the expense and complexity of developing land above stations. However, these barriers can be overcome by taking a more holistic view of the societal/economic contributions of these developments and utilising private sector partnerships. TfL’s desire to develop their estate is shown by the expansion of their development team from 5 in 2015, to over 30 by 2017. They also have a number of sites in the pipeline and being brought to market.

Integrating transport, housing and commercial planning has shown its ability to rejuvenate communities, contribute to the economy and relieve housing pressures. Developing mixed-use stations is likely to draw support from both national and regional governments. It contributes to key policy objectives, including funding the Government’s commitment to overhauling the UK’s rail infrastructure and Sadiq Khan’s commitment to building 90,000 new affordable homes in the capital.

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