Reaping the benefits of creating housing above railway lines

Tom Eshelby,

Industry Advisor

Buildoffsite’s recently published Linear Infrastructure Overbuild Guide presents the broad solution to a truly golden opportunity for Housing-led Urban Regeneration. More specifically, it creates an ideal platform (literally) for designers, manufacturers and developers to demonstrate the benefits of DfMA, where traditional construction methods are unlikely to be feasible.

With London’s population growing by 100,000 each year, and an acute undersupply of high quality housing, opportunities such as that at Clapham Junction seem too good to miss. Not only could we create much needed new homes but also resolve one of the great causes of urban blight in the process. The social, environmental and logistical problems around major transport hubs are well-known. The improvements seen at Kings Cross Station – which once embodied all the negative aspects imaginable – are self-evident in its revitalisation to a lively new quarter for London.

The great joy of this opportunity is the chance to transform the very worst parts of city centres and provide precisely what is required there – shopping, leisure, pedestrian access, jobs and homes. Far better this, than to expand our cities outwards. And whilst, in the first instance, the economics of building above railways will probably require large-scale London project values, in time this could be rolled out to other major cities and provincial towns. Yes, there will be additional costs – but this will provide development opportunity “out of thin air”, to borrow from WSP’s initial report.

And it will require all the benefits of modern methods of construction to maximise the opportunity above these decks. The faster and less intrusive the delivery of such buildings, the better; and the lighter the solution, the more we can provide of it. Plus, safely delivered in challenging conditions. If we can provide an engineered approach to the foundations of these buildings, we should also harness manufactured solutions above them, to create truly innovative and modern new communities.

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