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Tube spaces

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Old Street shops

A fascinating article popped up recently in Design Week:

London Underground stations are to host a number of pop-up shops, under a new scheme that will allow retailers temporary selling space across the transport network.

The scheme has been organised by Transport for London and Appear Here, an online marketplace that connects landlords’ vacant space with retailers, which is programming and curating the scheme at its different sites.

The first trial of this scheme is to kick off at Old Street Tube. Appear Here are advertising the spaces already on their website, pitching the smallest retail space at a mere £500 per week.

Some Tube stations are crying out for this sort of activity - Old Street is clearly one of them. Walking through Piccadilly too, one can't help but notice the empty retail spaces there (while sidestepping the many dozens of tourists who idle and make the station difficult to navigate).

This is a welcome activity - and a key part of TfL's commercial strategy of raising £3.5bn across its network in coming years. However, one can't help but wonder if this isn't also softening up Londoners for the Mayor's plans to introduce retail spaces into ticket offices should his modernisation plan be successfully eased past the unions.

Filling empty retail units is one thing. Changing the nature of Londoners' relationship with TfL staff and introducing retail space into places where it didn't previously exist is another entirely.