Small businesses run from railway arches face possible eviction if Network Rail increases its rental prices in the run-up to a sale of its underneath-the-arches properties. The arms-length agency of the Department for Transport is hoping to raise £1 billion by selling off its once unloved assets that small, independent businesses have nurtured and developed for many years.
There are 5,500 such archway businesses across the UK, from car mechanics to restaurants. One of them is Popup Bikes of Manchester, which could be forced to relocate. Pressure group Guardians of the Arches claims that Network Rail has been trying to evict many of the businesses – especially those in London – by increasing rents.
Cafe and repair shop Popup Bikes was started six years ago by Dipak Patel, and is on a road close to Manchester city centre that was once extremely run down. He has a three-month rolling lease on the beautified premises.
Patel told The Guardian: “We are a hub for the community. Before we came in six years ago there were just smackheads hanging around. People couldn’t even park their cars here but now they can as the whole area has improved. But all that will go out the window if we are forced to leave."
He added: “What we will end up with is a monoculture where there are no Popup Bikes, no great MOT places, just the same big chains everywhere. There will be no choice and we just have to buy the same stuff that everyone else buys.”
Many of the businesses run from Britain’s railway arches remain spartan affairs but some, including Popup Bikes, have spent a great deal of time and effort to beautify "their" premises. For instance, if there was a Bike Shop Loo of the Year Award, Popup Bikes would be a front-runner.