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Shaftesbury sounds the alarm as rail strikes take toll on businesses

Warning: West End property giant Shaftesbury, which owns sites such as Carnaby Street (pictured), said rail strikes ahead of Christmas were devastating

West End property giant Shaftesbury is sounding the alarm as rail strikes wreak havoc on businesses

Rishi Sunak must “settle all strikes”, warned the boss of one of London’s biggest landlords.

Brian Bickell, who runs West End property giant Shaftesbury, said rail strikes ahead of Christmas were devastating for shops and bars in the popular tourist area.

The 68-year-old insisted that ‘strikes cannot continue’ and called on unions, train operators and the Prime Minister to find a solution.

He said Shaftesbury, which owns swathes of Soho, Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and Chinatown, was finally seeing a “return to normal” after the pandemic.

But industrial action by the RMT and Aslef has left many travelers too nervous to plan trips to London in advance.

Bickell said: “People think, ‘Should we book something for the half-term holiday?’ and lack confidence.

;With things like theater tickets, it is sometimes quite difficult to get the money back. People need some certainty in their lives and need to know that the transportation system will be there.

Data from retail analyst Springboard showed that rail strikes have led to a drop in the number of visitors to central London ahead of Christmas – a crucial shopping period.

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Its tracker showed attendance in the third week of December fell by a fifth from the previous week. And more strikes are underway, with Aslef and the RMT planning walkouts tomorrow and Friday.

Bickell’s calls came as Shaftesbury said despite the disruption, turnover at shops and bars at his properties was above pre-Covid levels in December.

Bickell said that without the strikes, sales would have been even higher because “those days would have been normal days”.

Despite the bullish update, Shaftesbury shares slipped 0.2%, or 0.8p, to 391.6p.

The owner said a planned £5billion tie-up with rival Capital & Counties, agreed last summer, “will go ahead as planned” in the first quarter of this year.

The competition watchdog, the CMA, is investigating whether the merger would result in “a substantial lessening of competition”. He will decide whether to approve the deal on February 22.

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Capco also hailed an outstanding Christmas. Boss Ian Hawksworth said there was “continued momentum at Covent Garden” and he was confident about the year ahead for the West End.

But Capco shares also fell 0.4%, or 0.5p, to 114.5p.

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