SHOPS in train stations are lagging behind the post-Covid bounce-back seen across the rest of Britain – revealing the true economic cost of the failure of office staff to return to work.
A Sun on Sunday probe can reveal that 51 percent of retailers inside 20 of Britain’s biggest rail hubs have yet to reopen.
And footfall is down 76 PERCENT overall at 16,723,960 compared to 70,865,181 pre-Covid when there was a shopping boom at the sites.
The figures, from Network Rail who manage the sites, provide a snapshot of the devastating impact of hibernating Britain’s failure to get back into the office.
And it comes as the director-general of the CBI Dame Carolyn Fairbairn last week warned getting staff back to their desks is as important as getting pupils back to school to help the nation bounce back financially.
Network Rail released the figures as they backed The Sun On Sunday’s Save Our Cities Campaign – and revealed they have now laid on more staff than during the Olympics, increased cleaning and introduced one way systems so station users can shop safely.
Commercial Director of Network Rail Property Hamish Kiernan said: “The situation is very bad to be perfectly honest, and that’s why we need Britain’s support.
“The present footfall figures through our managed stations are running at 76 percent down overall compared to pre-Covid.
“That has had a knock on effect on all our retail partners.
“Pre-Covid we had the phenomenal luxury of volumes of passengers. If we get 50, 60, 70 percent of that footfall back, it is not only good for retailers, but ultimately also good for the economy.
“A lot of the retailers have suffered due to this pandemic. The situation is dire.
“Our message to the public is please be reassured by the amount of work we have done in to make our stations safe – we have all run at 100 miles an hour to get this right.”
IMPACT ON CAPITAL
Latest figures reveal London’s stations have been impacted the most with Paddington’s footfall plummeting 85 percent from 6,063,651 to 936,995 in July 2019 compared to July 2020.
Footfall in London’s Cannon Street – the heart of the City – dropped 83 percent from 1,700,415 to 295,567 – reflecting the fact that office staff have not returned to work.
Kings Cross footfall dropped 82 percent from 4,954,160 in July last year to 906,385 this year and Victoria dropped 75 percent from 8,719,509 to 2,161,292.
The rest of the country was hit almost as hard.
Over the same period Birmingham New Street’s footfall fell by 75 percent from 4,713,733 to 1,178,863, Leeds Central fell 72 percent from 2,384,130 to 673,913 and Manchester Piccadilly’s footfall dropped 72 percent from 3,543,446 to 983,862.
Liverpool Lime Street fared the best but still had a devastating 61 percent drop in footfall from 1,325,682 to 511,248 while Bristol also fell 75 per cent from 1,095,843 to 276,583.
The devastating figures mean that just 46 per cent of shops have reopened in the Network Rail’s southern stations which include London Bridge, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Clapham Junction, Victoria and Waterloo.
In their North West and Central region, which includes Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston 51 per cent have reopened.
In the West – which includes Paddington, Bristol Temple Meads and Reading, 45 percent of shops have reopened, while in Scotland which includes Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central 48 percent of shops have reopened.
Meanwhile in Leeds, London Kings Cross and London Liverpool Street, 54 percent of shops have reopened.
Mr Kiernan said a “minority” of shops are unable to open for the foreseeable future under current Covid legistlation – mainly kiosks where customers queue directly on to concourses meaning social distancing can’t always be observed.
In some stations Burger King and Delice de France as well as pasty shops have been affected by this.
RETAILERS WANT TO OPEN
He said: “In the majority, the retailers in our managed stations want to reopen.
“We have another 31 units planning to open in the next couple of weeks so there is a real drive.
“We are constantly talking to CEO’s including at Pret, WH Smith and others and also the independent retailers of all the action we have taken and they are getting ready.
“We have units called Barrier Line Units – effectively they are little kiosks where you may see a Burger King, pasty shop and Delice de France all together.
“We cannot get the social distancing right in the present legislation.
“Because they are all very close together and they are not in a closed shop we cannot let people in and out in order to maintain social distancing – and because they queue next to each other this is a real challenge.
“We know customers want to use those units – as they did before Covid – but there were long queues on concourses and that is simply not possible at the moment.
“The operator of those three units is one single entity so we are working with them to get the key ones open.
“We are working with companies to try to get as many businesses open as possible and get the business back as much as we can.”
“Other retailers are looking at how they can open and how they can afford to open.
“The message from us is that the sooner we can get people travelling safely again on the railways and commuting for whatever the new world looks like, then we can get volumes of people coming back through the station.
“We want to reassure people it is safe to travel and shop at our stations, we have one way systems, extra deep cleans, counting people in and out, extra station staff – we have got two and a half times the number of people we’d normally have in the stations to help the travelling public.
“That’s two times more than we had with the Olympics. We’ve done a great deal of work so we know how many people we can safely have on the concourses.
“All that work is done. We are there and waiting for the travelling public to safely get back on the network and use the stations.”
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