Businesses based in the 4,455 railway arches about to be sold off by Network Rail contribute over £725m to the UK economy every year, according to fresh research by the New Economics Foundation.
The finding comes as the four firms still in the running for Network Rail’s £1.2-£1.5bn commercial estate prepare to submit their final bids. The Guardians of the Arches, a campaign group led by small businesses based in arches and supported by the New Economics Foundation and East End Trades Guild, is calling on the government to intervene in the sale to ensure their interests are protected.
The New Economics Foundation’s research reveals:
- The total gross-value-added (GVA) of rail arch businesses is estimated at over £725m a year
- Nearly a quarter (23%) of all businesses in railway arches operate in manufacturing, a highly productive sector of the economy
- The 30% of arches tenants in vehicle sale and repair alone contribute nearly £200m a year to the economy
- Each business in an arch contributes on average over £160,000 to GDP every year
Sarah Arnold, researcher at the New Economics Foundation who conducted the research, said:
“There are loads of enterprising small businesses based in railway arches all over the country. And when you add up all of the ways in which they contribute to the economy – not just their own activities but the local supply chains they create – it amounts to a lot.
But all of that dynamism is under threat. Every day we speak to small business owners who have had to shut down or relocate because of massive in-year rent increases, often leaving arches vacant for years. And now, with the impending sale of the estate, their future is even more uncertain. When you look at how much these arches businesses contribute to our economy, it doesn’t make any sense to put all of that at risk.”