Housing shortage in London could be solved by building above railways

Around 250,000 homes could be in built in the capital and potentially solve London’s housing needs by building over open railways, according to new research.

A report entitled ‘Out of Thin Air’ published by engineering consultants WSP highlights the potential of building above London Underground and Overground lines. It proposes that around 10% of London’s 1,142km of open rail lines could be boarded over and blocks of homes built on top. By doing so, WSP estimates 250,969 new homes could be built in blocks averaging 12 storeys.

Network Rail appointed WSP in 2012 to study the feasibility of building above rail lines. The study’s conclusions, which focused on the type of decking and noise and vibration issues are detailed in the new report.  

Research from the report identified all rail tracks in Transport for London’s (TfL) fare zones 1-6 where there were no breaks in the track made by tunnels, roads or bridges and where there was ten metres of available land on both sides. The London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Croydon and TfL Zones 2, 3 and 4 provided the most ‘overbuild’ development potential.

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.”

The report can be viewed, here.

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