In light of the announcement about Network Rail fat cat bonuses, I thought you might be interested to know how it treats its tenants.
We had a lease with the rail system operator on a railway station cottage on the Waverley Line. I worked on the project for a while with Scottish Borders Council and was given the opportunity to rent the cottage as the empty properties were being vandalised. It was the standard short-assured lease, but I was led to believe by several people on the project that this would just roll over as Network Rail didn’t want the properties empty and wouldn’t sell at this juncture due to possible dilapidation claims.
An agent inspected the property at the beginning of the lease and I was told to email him to remind him of outstanding repairs which he would see to. When I mentioned flooding in the garage, he told me Network Rail would probably demolish it. When I emailed him and never heard back, I decided to keep quiet on issues so as not to disrupt the status quo.
Having spent a winter in this property, which had many damp issues, mould on the bedroom walls, a chimney which was about to crumble in any high wind (I informed the agent of this and was told to let him know if it got worse) and most radiators not working, we had to move into the small box room to sleep as it was the only one habitable. We painted in the good weather and rendered, and weather-shielded three walls in an effort to stave off the damp for the following winter.
We created vegetable plots, erected a greenhouse and created a wildlife pond – then out of the blue were given a notice to quit.
Network Rail said it was easier to get us out than disrupt the village with temporary buildings being erected. If you travel to Heriot, look around and ask the locals if they already feel disrupted. It has four other properties on the railway suitable for this purpose, but have chosen to demolish two of them.
When I worked on the Waverley project, I was given the impression I might be able to live there until the line opened. I would not have tended a garden and made repairs had I known that the operator intended to kick me out.