‘Rail Overbuild’ will create more London homes

Housing continues to be one of London’s most intractable problems but a report from WSP proposes a clever solution

by Nick Myall 02 November 2017
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    London needs 50,000 new homes every year until 2025 just to keep up with housing demand and solutions to this issue are urgently required.

    A report launched by engineering consultants WSP at an event in central London today (2.11.17) suggests that building flats above open London Underground and Overground lines could provide much-needed housing capacity in the city.

    The report claims that around 250,000 could be built in London by developing above the capital’s railways - this strategy is referred to as ‘Rail Overbuild’.

    The most appropriate areas for development are 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 boxing in 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.

    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.”

    Nick Myall

    News editor

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