"Well, I went down to the station…” goes the opening line to many a blues tale – and once upon a time you may have found yourself entering a dingy space leading into even dingier platforms. Yet their location and purpose means that many stations are ripe for unlocking regeneration schemes, from giving a shopping street a focal
point, to providing easy public transport access to employment and opening up areas for homes.
Network Rail, owner of 2,500 British stations, is one of the nation’s largest landowners. It’s only too happy to put surplus space near to – and, with some caveats, above – stations into schemes that make it money. But engaging with the rail industry can be a complex operation for planners. Network Rail’s role is akin to a freeholder, with stations in effect leased by a train operator that may have little incentive to cooperate in improvements if its franchise is soon to expire. The Department for Transport, which lets franchises to operators, will also most likely become involved. Accommodating the rail industry’s operational needs is vital in stacking up a project, but generally it will be happy if more passengers use a station because of a development.