Could building above London’s railways solve the capital’s housing crisis?

Image: WSP.

Around a quarter of a million homes could be built in London by developing above the capital’s railways, a new report has claimed.

A report published by engineering consultants WSP suggests that building apartments above open London Underground and Overground lines could provide much-needed housing capacity in the city.

WSP looked at sections of lines within Transport for London’s (TfL) fare zones 1-6 where there were no bridges, tunnels or roads and where there was 10 metres of free land either side of the railway.

By decking parts of the railway and building 12-storey apartment blocks above, WSP’s ‘Out of Thin Air’ report estimates that 250,969 new homes could be built.

Image: WSP

Bill Price, WSP director, said: “We have to be more creative in using existing space in what remains a relatively low-rise city. The air rights above rail tracks present an unrealised but significant opportunity to build more new homes on brownfield land. It’s important to emphasise the engineering is absolutely possible and not new.

“We have been working on projects of this nature in New York for decades. Right now in London we are working on a variety of projects that rise above rail lines including a 50-storey residential tower, homes above a new Crossrail station and even a Premier League stadium.

“There is a wider point about how we can better connect communities and unlock new homes not just above rail lines but adjacent to them as well. In some parts of London rail lines act as accidental segregators. By ‘decking’ over these lines, such as the proposed regeneration west of Earls Court underground station, we can join together sites to unlock an even higher number of new homes and create new vibrant communities.”

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  1. Seeing the picture of the new building built above the railway line does seem to be a good idea. It could happen on some lines if planning permission is to be made on whether to build a tunnel that the railway line is located. Once the tunnel has been built. Then the process of building new apartments or office blocks is allowed to be built on top of the railway line. Just like at Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire where a new tunnel was built to allow Tesco to build a supermarket over the railway line.

  2. This is a horrible idea. Imagine sitting or driving a train in endless tunnels. No more sunshine as you travel to and from work and what a welcome for those arriving in London. At bridges possibly, but wholesale no!

  3. As someone who lives near a railway line, and despite living in a modern house with triple glazing and quieter electric trains running on the track, I can constantly hear them and feel the vibration. This is a ridiculously stupid idea. Not only will no-one want to live above a railway line, but also presumably the line will have to be closed for months, causing endless disruption whilst the housing is built. This is absolutely barmy!


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