Partnership with the private sector is crucial to ensure the investment in Britain's railways that is needed for economic growth, a senior rail industry executive has said.
Speaking at a meeting organised by the British Property Federation and Network Rail, NR group finance director Patrick Butcher said better rail links create better connections between people and jobs, create greater customer bases and bring businesses closer together. Both passenger and freight traffic have been growing by more than 5 per cent a year since 2000, and demand is still rising, but at peak times on the busiest parts of the network there is no space for more trains. "If we don't invest, we will become a bottleneck that holds back economic growth," he warned.
Pointing out that Network Rail owns 2500 stations and 540,000 square feet of retail space, as well as 7500 commercial properties, Butcher highlighted some of the major city centre developments it is already involved in, notably at London Bridge, King's Cross and Birmingham New Street.
Station developments can be a catalyst for regeneration, he said, breathing new life into key regional centres, creating a sense of arrival, driving inward investment and improving capacity.
In Network Rail's first multi-site joint venture, with Kier Property, targeted investment across 14 sites in London and the South East is expected to achieve an estimated gross development value of £600m and significant railway improvements. Other regional projects are expected to follow.
Retail developments are doing particularly well at major stations, with the sector seeing five per cent growth in like-for-like sales last year - much better than high street sites.