Could 280,000 Homes Be Built Above London’s Trainlines?

According to a WSP study, Out of Thin Air – One Year On, using space above rail lines could make an extra 2,470 hectares of land available for homes and flats across London. This space could represent the equivalent of 280,000 new homes.

Housing remains one of the biggest problems in London. The mayor recently stated that the rate of construction for residential buildings needed to reach 66,000 homes a year to meet the current demand. The National House-Building Council has indicated that only 2,917 properties were planned in the three months to June 2018, making it the lowest amount for that quarter since 2009.

This WSP report on London home development follows an earlier one, which estimated that by building above rail, 250,000 new homes could be found in London.

WSP has collaborated with the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at UCL to develop a new methodology to provide a more accurate idea of available rail land suitable for development. Using this new GIS-based methodology, WSP uncovered 14% more land with overbuild potential than previously estimated.

The team also examined difficulties that can arise when reviewing a potential London home development site, such as the track length and site size, which must be a minimum length of 100m.

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The report research identified the land area associated with all exposed rail tracks in Zones 1-6 in London. If only 10% of it was delivered, 280,000 new homes could be built, assuming the buildings would be 12 storeys in height and 100 square metres.

The research suggests that TfL Zones 2, 3 and 4 and the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Croydon have the most potential for overbuild development. Wandsworth, Newham and Hammersmith & Fulham in Central London also showed a lot of potential.

WSP examined how this methodology could be applied on an international basis. By analysing land in Melbourne, Sydney, and Vancouver, it identified 77,400, 29,160 and 46,033 potential new homes respectively.

WSP Director Bill Price said that the industry needs to use innovative solutions to overcome London’s housing crisis. The new report brings everyone closer to accessing the potential represented by rail overbuild in London and cities across the globe.

Mr. Price added that rail overbuild was not simply about creating new residential buildings. It was also about creating vibrant, safe, and sustainable communities that developments can offer. These communities can provide local authorities with economic development tools to provide jobs, connectivity, and growth to the community.

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