Safety concerns about Network Rail’s £1.4bn deal to sell off its non-railway estate assets, including thousands of railway arches across the country, have been reported to the Confidential Reporting On Structural Safety (CROSS) body.
In its latest publication, CROSS has revealed annonymised concerns that the sale of assets – mostly converted railway arches – could lead to safety issues as engineers will not be able to properly inspect them.
Network Rail concluded a deal to sell its 5,200 property assets in November last year.
“In the event that space under railway arches is sold off then it becomes almost impossible for inspection and maintenance to be carried out,” the CROSS report states.
The converted railway arches are popular locations for start-ups and local businesses and are in high demand in London in particular.
The report claims that many of the inner-city arches could contain “defects hidden behind linings” and have not been inspected for years. It adds that many arches that have been inspected in recent years have required immediate action to make safe.
The reporter states that the freight loading on old masonry structures is such that the movement of heavy trains over them causes movement in the bricks which dislodges mortar over time, leading to further increased movement in the bricks. The report states that these defects could lead to a potential structural collapse if not addressed.
Network Rail launched the sale of its 5,200-property commercial estate in November 2017 and completed the deal a year later in November 2018.
The sites are being sold on a leasehold basis for 150 years, with Network Rail retaining access rights for the future operation of the railway.
The deal to sell the leaseholds was struck with Telereal Trillium and Blackstone Property Partners to fund railway upgrade plans.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The sites were sold on a 150-year leasehold basis with Network Rail retaining access rights for the future maintenance and operation of the railway. The sale will not impact on the safe and efficient running of the rail network, train operating companies, freight operating companies or other operational partners.”
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