Since the railway first made tracks during the Industrial Revolution, there have been ongoing improvements to the UK’s rail network and, as a consequence, the areas surrounding train stations and major transport hubs. With initiatives like the Night Tube, Crossrail and HS2 well underway, there are numerous ways in which the property sector can look to benefit and make the most of investment into transport.
Now that convenience is the order of the day, people are looking to get from A to B with as little hassle as possible. Part of this is however, is not about the actual transit, but the experience the customer expects during the journey. With some 1.7 billion train journeys undertaken each year in the UK, it is no wonder that we want to get to places quickly and with maximum comfort. Tourists, students, commuters and families alike have grown to expect a first-class experience before, during and after the journey. Government plans last year highlighted that land around stations should be used for commercial development.
Up and down the country, investment has been pumped into areas around rail stations including Birmingham, Reading, Swansea and Wakefield. Birmingham, with its population of over one million, has a thriving city centre which is served by three train stations. Birmingham New Street, the largest of the three, has historically suffered from a myriad of problems including poor design, accessibility and permeability through the station itself.
Birmingham City Council seized this opportunity and, through the New Street Gateway proposal, shepherded a whopping £750m into the redevelopment of the station. With 43 new shops including a John Lewis department store, a new exterior, new public lifts and better interchange links, the new station has had far-reaching benefits on the 100,000 people that use it each day.
The attractiveness of the retail experience and offer has increased the catchment for visitors. These improvements have made a significant impact on perceptions of the area and have driven up investment around the rest of the city as a result. To the immediate north-east of the station, the Birmingham City Centre Premier Inn is investing £8.5m in its conference facilities and accommodation to capitalise on the recent investment in the station and the associated increase in footfall in the area.
So what can we learn from this strategy? With record numbers of rail improvements underway at the moment, now seems a fitting time for investors and developers alike to be making the most of infrastructure initiatives. Transport hubs are becoming more “high-tech” and, as people travel further and further afield for work, are increasingly attractive investment opportunities for property developers. With more regeneration plans afoot across the UK, investment in and around railways seems just the ticket.