At last week’s London Assembly Budget & Performance Committee, we had Transport for London (TfL) before us to discuss their non-fares income from, for example advertising and property portfolios. My general impression was, that TFL are not particularly on top of the scale and potential which these sites have nor do they see them as a priority to manage the sites well. These sites are dotted across the whole of London and could generate a significant amount of income for TFL particular from air space rights over tube stations, they can also be an asset to a local area.
A case in point is Shepherds Bush market between Goldhawk Rd and Shepherds Bush market tube stations under and along the Hammersmith & City line tracks. It’s a collection of retail units located under the viaducts, extending almost the whole of the stretch between the two tube stations. It’s a lively and vibrant market where a lot of local folk come for some cheap and cheerful shopping. (I’m quite partial to their falafels).
In a previous term, I learned that TfL made money out of these shop units. The hope was, that they would ring fence these surpluses and invest them into market itself so as to improve the urban fabric of their assets and also help regenerate the local area. At the time, we were told TFL could not legally do this and that funds could not be ring fenced in this way. This is in stark contrast to Network Rail’s management of its viaducts in London Bridge, where we have a flourishing food market operating at a similar junction of transport interchanges to the Bush. It’s clear that Network Rail have actually invested in this food market and helped develop it. TfL could certainly learn a few lessons from them.
More recently it appears TfL are trying to move many of the traders along under pressure from the local council’s threat of a Compulsory Purchase Order, which is another story in itself, but unfortunately, this all comes before the centenary celebrations of the market next year.
As for an international comparison, Hong Kong MRT would put TFL to shame. At a conference last December on air pollution in Hong Kong, I was told by an Executive from its MRT that its income from property developments and other non-transport assets helps ensure that their transport network does not need public subsidy. Now, wouldn’t that be an admirable aim for TfL? Legally or perhaps, more so operationally, TFL seems incapable of exploiting the vast property development potential at tube stations like Southwark and Edgware Rd either to enhance these sites and or to help keep fares down for Londoners.