Don't let Citigroup decide the future of your stations

Photo of passengers at Edinburgh Waverley

23 February 2016

Citigroup bankers have been brought in to advise Network Rail on how to privatise the 18 railway stations that it manages directly. (These include Birmingham New Street, Bristol Temple Meads, Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central, Leeds, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly and Reading, as well as ten major stations in London.)

Network Rail has recently been brought back onto the public balance sheet and is feeling the pressure to sell off stations for a quick fix to reduce its debt. This debt is partly caused by Network Rail giving a 'massive indirect subsidy' to the train companies for years. If the railways were brought into public ownership, £1.2 billion a year could be saved. We’re already wasting money on privatisation, but if we sell off assets we’ll waste more in the long term. We’ll lose public control over those assets, and we’ll lose the revenue stream and profits they would generate in the future.

That’s not how Network Rail or the government sees it. They are asking Citigroup (which became insolvent and had to be bailed out by the US government in 2008) to ‘test the market’ and explore selling off your stations. This raises the question, are train stations simply there to generate the maximum revenue?  Or are they public places and part of communities? No one asked you whether you wanted your stations to be handed over to private investors. You might have other ideas for how to create the better railway stations of the future. For example, stations could offer:

  • Art and architecture
  • A place to meet and chat with friends and family
  • Indoor (or outdoor) gardening and greenery
  • Information about train services and help with your journey
  • Shopping
  • Eating and drinking
  • A place for community groups to meet or advertise themselves
  • Places for children to play
  • Trainspotting
  • Flashmobs
  • ​Water features

Selling off stations won’t save money in the long term. But it's just as important to ask - what’s happened to the voice of passengers and communities in this debate? Network Rail needs to hear from you, not just from Citigroup.

So tell us in the comments below: If your local station was truly owned by you, what would you want from it? What do you think of the ideas above? What ideas do you have for improving stations? We’ll make sure your comments get heard by tweeting them to Network Rail and Citigroup. (You can also tweet them directly @networkrail @Citi and copy us in @We_OwnIt.)

Photo of passengers at Edinburgh Waverley

Photo used under Creative Commons licensing, thanks to Chris Booth.

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moira morrison replied on

I am against Citigroup selling off. Stations should have more public control.

judith klaus replied on

Is there anything the tories wont sell? Trouble is its not theirs to sell and they pay to get someone to sell it. If i sold off something that was not mine i would end up in jail. So ....

Anonymous replied on

It's easy to remember tory = thief well that is the simple version. It's not yours to sell or lease it ours!

Stephanie Potts replied on

I am opposed to this Govt. selling off any public assets. They should not be in private hands.

Jonathan Hulson replied on

Our railways are at the heart of British culture and heritage. Our ancestors built them for future generations, as a public service to benefit British people. This government are proving they have no such values. Leave them alone and renationalise our railways!

Alison Trueman replied on

This does not even make economic sense.

Hannah Reade replied on

Stations are ideal spaces to create and represent the unique identity of a place: local produce/handicrafts/art/music. A community owned station could be such a vibrant place that people would see the station as a destination in itself.

J Stone replied on

I think stations should remain in public ownership. Soon everything will be owned by big businesses whose only thought is how to make profits for themselves. They don't care about most of us because they are virtually unaware of our existence other than as a commodity.

Mick Reilly replied on

Train stations are the heart and souls of our cities, they should be owned by the citizens of these cities and towns via the local councils, income made from them, should be invested in them and their surroundings and other vital functions, no more public money into private pockets, these are our assets, keep your hands off!

Nancy replied on

This is yet another nail in the coffin of nationalisation. There is a serious misconception that the purpose of our railways is to make a profit, rather than act as a vital public service.

Steve O'Gorman replied on

Pontypridd station, at the junction of the South Wales Valleys, is a classic example of a wasted asset. It's got one of the longest platforms on the entire network, and the building is of historic and architectural importance. The previous comment about small retail units to showcase local manufacturers is dead on the money. There's a huge university one stop down the line, with thousands of people from all over the world arriving in town every year. Pontypridd station has plenty of space below the station (and on the platforms) to raise a bit of revenue by renting the space out to craftspeople. There could even be a small art gallery, where passengers could browse while waiting for trains. As things stand you can't get a cup of coffee, never mind anything else. (I live in Aberdare, where there are minimal facilities, by the way.)

Mark replied on

If this govt did not fiddle with Network Rail in the first place, there would be no prompt to sell these stations. However, I suspect that that argument puts the cart before the horse, as this country is lined up for TOTAL privatisation - all for 'efficiency'! This 'efficiency' is bogus, because it reduces wages, and therefore the spending, of the entire workforce, and increases the profits of the owners. That profit will never be spent, as it will end up offshore,and benefit no one, ever! So, HMG, do not, ever, privatise these stations, or Network Rail, or anything else!!!

Chris Henry replied on

I am opposed to the sell off of Public Assets . Germany , France , Holland and China have invested , own or run passenger and freight on our infrastructure do we on their railways ? This Country is being sold off from under our noses by this awful government . Stop it !

Nicky Griffiths replied on

Railway Stations are important public spaces. If they are sold off and then the shareholders decide they are not making enough profit will they be summarily closed? Privatising Network Rail didn't work, what makes this government think selling off its assets is a good idea? The profits of several rail operators are already going towards subsidising government-run railways in Europe instead of in this country. If these stations can make a profit the money should be used towards improving our railway network. Selling them off will give a one off boost to Network Rail's capital but will starve it of possible future revenue.

N. Wallman replied on

Stop selling my forefathers legacy

andrew fawcett replied on

the railways should be renationalised. this is the wrong approach.

Colin Sykes replied on

Railway stations are provided for the convenience of passengers using the railway. Toilets, refreshment facilities, comfortable waiting areas, train information, local visitor information and assistance should be provided. Some of this could be franchised out (W H Smths have been doing this for over a century) but ultimate ownership and control of the stations must remain in the hands of the public. Many railway stations have significant heritage status and the god of money must not be allowed to desecrate this iconic oart of our culture and memorial to the great engineers and architects of the Victorian era when Britain had something to be proud of.

Mik Fielding replied on

I totally agree ...

Colin replied on

Our stations should remain publicly owned so that the needs of the public come first before any need to generate profit for shareholders or hedge funds. Go and develop inner city sink estates if you want to do something useful.

Alan replied on

If we're doing as well as the chancellor George Osborne says we are, why is this even being considered?

Barry Woodcock replied on

The stations where built for the Railways and to give service and shelter to staff and passengers

Christina McCabe replied on

Stations belong to us, in all their various forms, some architectural marvels, some functional blocks, but all as public spaces, & need to contain amenities for the public, not generate profits for shareholders.

Mik Fielding replied on

I am totally against the sell off, it is tantamount to theft! We need to take more of the rail system back into public hands like in more civilised countries such as Germany and France. It seems that the Tories want to sell off all of the publically owned assets for short term profits and as such they are just a bunch of self serving criminals who deserve nothing but contempt!

Andrew Westerman replied on

Oh for crying out loud, Britain invented railways, nationalisation saved em and now British tax payers and over squeezed fare payers subsidise cheap fares in Europe and share holders profits (the deficit anybody!). Stop the madness bring back public ownership and joined up planning now.

Mike Brown replied on

My own usual interface with national railways at Newcastle Central does not seem to be part of this but my experience of it has positives and negatives. SW.H.Smith are long established and trhe Sainsbury offer is good. Beyond this the commercial offer has seen the loss of value for money providers in favour of cosrtly chains, presumably being able to afford higner rents. Many choose the Gregg's outlet across Neville street as value for money.

Most of my journies pass through Kings Cross, where commercial offerings,perhaps excluding Pret A Manger but texcluding other valus for money providers who have been forced out, have also been severely downgraded.

All we really need is sufficient sheltered waiting seating and value for money catering.

Phil Caldwell replied on

I would really like to know where any government that's in power in the UK thinks it has the right to sell off public assets, they are there to govern not to sell what we as taxpayers own, any form of assets sold off should be subject to referenda. We do not elect governments to sell off what we own, they are answerable to us not the other way around.

Any money raised from public asset stripping is always less than what the asset is worth and always goes back to the government and is swallowed up. How do we know we are receiving the money and it's not going into private bank accounts of the politicians themselves.

Rachel replied on

We will never have the future-proof mass transit system we deserve and need if the people running it are driven by profit first, as profit always means looking at margins rather than service and the needs and desires of its users. Bristol Temple Meads (my local station) could be gorgeous if local artists and community groups were allowed to get their hands on it.

Bill Logan replied on

I want railway stations to be places to start and end journeys without someone making a profit from something that they didn't build.

Helen replied on

I'm not asking for frills and fanciness, first class upgrades or snakc trolleys. I want clean, well-serviced trains that run on time and have enough space or regularity to cope with the passengers one would expect at any given time. I want affordable tickets, which private companies have not been offering. And yes, train stations that are a positive asset to the cities they serve with public space and useful facilities rather than just souped up marketing spaces. Glasgow Central is a beautiful station that could be used for art displays and public gatherings, and the subterranean areas that are part of it could be made open to the public for events such as when the GFT held film screenings there.

Julie Boston replied on

What a relief to hear that We Own It are taking action. Hopefully people in Bristol will be at Bristol Temple Meads to support the message Our stations are not for sale.

Linda Oubridge replied on

They are OUR stations paid for with OUR money. Do NOT sell them off.

John Howe replied on

I am massively opposed to this atrocious plan I have a Citibank credit card but shall find another from now. Citibank sucks...

Eve Wallis replied on

When will I recieve my share of the sale proceeds? HANDS OFF they're NOT YOURS to sell!

ERMH replied on

It is not the governments to sell - it is an asset to be managed for the good of all.

Rhydgaled replied on

The rail network needs a long-term income stream, if we sell off our stations now the rent/lease money from the retail units in stations will go to private companies, not to fund the rail network. That income stream needs to be protected for the railway in the future, selling it off for short-term gain would come back to bite us, hard.

Network Rail needs a lump sum now apparently, so by all means ask a company to pay up front for a fairly long lease, say 25 years, on the retail units. But don't give up our stations entirely.

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