Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Privatizing the Railway Arches

I confess I never heard of Britain's railway arches until today, when I read on Boing Boing that National Rail plans to sell them all off to hedge funds and companies like Goldman Sachs. And as soon as I understood what the arches are, I was immediately sad.

A longer story on The Conversation gives more background. There are 4,455 railway arches across the country — basically the spaces below elevated train tracks near train stations — and they would be sold to a single private developer, likely for something like £1 billion.

The tenants within the arches currently are small businesses that often would otherwise be priced out of the area. Many are creative businesses, breweries, bakeries, cheesemakers, while others are more mechanics or metalworkers. And The Conversation gave me this bit of perspective:

Unlike segregated industrial estates, arches are often found within residential areas, bringing commercial life into the neighbourhoods. The large doorways and open fronts of railway arches encourage communication between businesses, which may in turn help small businesses to innovate and grow.
The fact that these arches are used as commercial spaces, or that they are prevalent across Britain, is something that wouldn't have occurred to me, but now that I know it I love it and want them to remain a public good. Even worse than when Chicago leased its parking meters for 99 years to a private company, once a public good goes into private hands, it doesn't come back.

And that doesn't have a price.

No comments: