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Shortlisted investors submitting final bids to take over Network Rail arches

PUBLISHED: 18:39 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 19:03 31 July 2018

Empty arches in Malcolm Place, all now boarded up. Picture: Mike Brooke

Empty arches in Malcolm Place, all now boarded up. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The deadline for the next stage in Network Rail’s controversial £1.5bn arches sell-off is Thursday when the remaining four shortlist bidders must come up with a structured management plan to stay in the game.

Mervyn Bennett... Mervyn Bennett... "“We’re not on a main road — we’re an alley off a back street." Picture: Mike Brooke

It follows a campaign by the Guardians of the Arches pressure group set up by the traders renting the arches who were facing rent rises up to 350 per cent.

They took their grievances in a delegation with the East End Trades Guild to the Rail Minister earlier this month, to demand stringent conditions to the sale to protect tenants whoever owns the arches.

“Network Rail is now asking bidders for details of how they’ll work with tenants,” campaign spokesman Will Brett told the East London Advertiser.

Up for rent... another empty railway arch in an alley behind Bancroft Road. Picture: Mike BrookeUp for rent... another empty railway arch in an alley behind Bancroft Road. Picture: Mike Brooke

“They realise now that these arches aren’t just assets to raise revenue—people’s livelihoods are at stake.”

Some traders have had to give up arches which then remain empty for months and even years.

Mervyn Bennett has run his Bancroft Garage business in Stepney Green for 30 years from two arches in an alley behind Bancroft Road for £30,000, but had to give up one when Network Rail wanted £70,000 as “a London commercial rate”.

Robert Bonnadie... “They wanted £140,000 to keep my two arches, but I’ve had to give one up — now it’s just empty.” Picture: Mike BrookeRobert Bonnadie... “They wanted £140,000 to keep my two arches, but I’ve had to give one up — now it’s just empty.” Picture: Mike Brooke

But Mervyn points out: “We’re not on a main road—we’re an alley off a back street.

“This is our livelihood. A lot of people have now lost their businesses because of the rent rises. Some arches have been empty for three years, so Network Rail must be losing revenue.”

Robert Bonnadie’s P & A Mars Motors next door has operated an MoT station and repair workshop for 15 years.

Desolation of empty railway arches in Bethnal Green now boarded up with graffiti art. Picture: Mike BrookeDesolation of empty railway arches in Bethnal Green now boarded up with graffiti art. Picture: Mike Brooke

But now the father-of-two reckons he’ll be on the dole with his rent going from £40,000 to £75,000.

He said: “They wanted £140,000 to keep my two arches, but I’ve had to give one up—now it’s just lying empty.”

More arches remain empty in Bethnal Green with only one business left along Malcolm Place—all other arches are desolate.

Network Rail is selling off its commercial estate business, mostly converted arches, which are “not essential for running the railways”.

It claims most rent rises are at 10pc—but this is a national average, with no separate figures available for London.

Rent reviews were “not connected to the sale” and all leases would transfer to the new buyer “with arrangements and notice periods unchanged”.

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