Ray Murphy, who has been selling carpets on Brixton’s Atlantic Road for more than 25 years, has challenged the chief executive of Network Rail to visit him and discover how his organisation is viewed locally.
Budget Carpets is one of four traders to refuse the terms offered by Network Rail when it demanded that its leaseholders leave their Brixton arches premises while they are redeveloped.
They now face a period of great disruption as the arches around them are refitted in a building operation that has attracted strong criticism.
Ray Murphy has demanded to know why it was not possible for traders who stood to lose much of their business by an enforced absence of a year or more, to move into an empty arch while theirs was being worked on by Network Rail.
The traders are taking Network Rail to court over the way they have been treated.
“We’re so desperate to resolve the matter that we want to personally invite Mark Carne, CEO of Network Rail, down to Brixton to make him aware of how the company he represents is regarded in such a sensitive area of London.
“I just want to stay in business like I have done in Brixton for the last 27 years and want to sit down and talk to Network Rail so we do not have to carry on trading in the middle of a building site.”
Mark Carne is overseeing a programme of massive spending by Network Rail, which was taken out of the private sector by government in 2015 to become a public-sector body.
His boss, who should know something about London and its sensitivities, is Sir Peter Hendy. Now chair of Network Rail, he was appointed as commissioner of transport for London by then mayor Ken Livingstone in 2006 and started his working life as a London Transport trainee in 1975.
In November 2015 he wrote the “Hendy review” that set out how the newly public-sector Network Rail could fund the multi-billion work necessary to bring Britain’s railways into the 21st century now that it could no longer borrow money as a private-sector company.
A major part of the plan is the sale of £1.8 billion-worth of assets, including property assets like retail units in Network Rail property.
Network Rail’s website says – in a section on “social performance” – that: “Our dedicated community teams get right into the heart of communities, finding out what matters to local people, and helping to deliver positive change.”