Uncertainty Under The Arches: Network Rail's Commercial Property Sell-Off And The Crisis Of Affordable Workspace In London

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Geography


In September 2018, Network Rail agreed to sell 200 railway
arches as a single commercial portfolio to investment groups
Telereal Trillium and Blackstone Property Partners for
£1.45bn. The sale represents the latest in a long line of
public asset sell-offs in the UK through which rents are
shifted from the public to the private realm. While the details
of the sale are still being negotiated, there are grave
concerns about the future of thousands of archway
enterprises across the country. The potential impacts are
particularly acute in East London, where small businesses
have revitalised the local rail infrastructure while contending
with rent increases of up to 300%. However, the sale also
represents a rare opportunity for organisation among
businesses sharing a common landlord. Local businesses
organised through the East End Trades Guild have
responded by developing an Affordable Workspace
Manifesto, culminating in a campaign for London Working
Rent. This campaign raises critical questions about the
capacities for collective organisation among diverse small
businesses, and the possibilities for applying principles
derived from the movements of employees and residential
tenants - such as Living Wage and Living Rent - to the
commercial rental sector.
This project proposes a collaboration between the East End
Trades Guild (EETG), the New Economic Foundation (NEF)
and the School of Geography at QMUL in order to generate
much-needed evidence on the impacts of the National Rail
sell-off in East London and the possibilities for collective
organisation and intervention. This research will advance
theoretical understandings of socio-economic value and,
specifically, inform emerging policy debates on affordable
workspaces in the context of the ongoing transfer of rents
from the public to the private sphere. In terms of its
contribution to social science, the research will advance
emerging debates on the connections between social
entrepreneurship and public life, bringing together research
programmes on livelihoods and diverse economies (Monteith
& Giesbert 2017; Monteith & Camfield forthcoming) and
urban sociality and collective culture (Koch 2016; Koch &
Latham 2012; 2013). Furthermore, by addressing questions
about the possibilities for collective action and organisation,
the project will build upon the School of Geography's
reputation for conducting research on local issues in East
London in ways that direct national campaigns, such as the
Living Wage campaign (Wills 2008; Wills and Linneker 2014).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2323700 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2023 Deivi Norberg