Meeting their Waterloo: Network Rail may sell station shops

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The Independent Online

Network Rail, the not-for-profit successor to Railtrack, is considering selling its £500m portfolio of shops within its main railways stations.

The cash would be used to plug a potential gulf between the company's ambitious spending programme and income generated by passengers.

Network Rail has one of the largest single collections of shops in Britain. The units are let to major retailers such as WH Smith and Boots, and generate £50m to £60m year through rents.

But now that Network Rail wants to focus all its attention on railway engineering, activities such as property management are classed as "non-core".

A spokesman said: "We are principally an engineering company. There may be people who could do the job better than us. This would allow us to concentrate on our main business, which is the railway network."

The property proposals are being considered by Deborah Richard, Network Rail's director of railway estates. She is understood to be toying with either appointing a company to manage its retail estate and retain the rental income, or selling the properties but retaining the freehold rights to station access.

The retail portfolio under review covers 16 major stations including: London Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Manchester Piccadilly and Edinburgh Waverley.

Network Rail has also decided that its commercial development activities should be restricted simply to obtaining planning consent and then selling on the land to property companies.