London High Line artist's impression

First images of proposed ‘post-industrial’ London High Line unveiled

Image credit: Camden Town Unlimited

Stretch of disused rail line in London would be turned into an elevated garden under a scheme being compared to a world-famous Manhattan project

For the first time this drawing (pictured above) shows what a stretch of disused and unloved urban rail line would look like transformed into a blossoming new public park.

The ambitious ‘post-industrial’ project has been compared to the New York High Line, the world-famous linear park in Manhattan which was built on an abandoned railroad spur.

Rumours of the plans, drawn up by business lobby group Camden Town Unlimited, began circulating in April this year and were reported first by E&T but have now been officially confirmed. Architectural drawings and other images visualising the scheme have also been released as part of a drive to build up a head of steam behind the project.

Under the plans, part of the North London Railway, now the North London Line – which is part of the London Overground – would be repurposed to create a flower-filled green chain, a half-mile garden walk, 18 metres wide and eight metres high. For much of its route it would run alongside operational train lines, which would be walled off using barriers covered with colourful plants.

Space that currently lies unused would become a new type of ‘green infrastructure’ for walking and cycling, according to Camden Town Unlimited.

This would enable pedestrians to enjoy a pleasant 10-minute, car free walk linking the transport hub at King’s Cross with the residential area of Camden Town, which is best known among tourists for its markets and music scene.

One potential benefit to the transport system as a whole would be reduced overcrowding on the London Underground and London Overground as a result of some passengers opting to use the walking route instead of hopping on the train.

New York’s High Line has become an unlikely tourist attraction since opening six years ago and has already spawned copycat civil engineering projects the world over which have repurposed forgotten industrial infrastructure to create somewhat gritty urban parks.

Camden Town Unlimited has been working with Network Rail since early 2016 on the technical feasibility detail to do with using the infrastructure.

The disused railway line crosses eight roads, on seven existing bridges, and it is thought it would be relatively cheap to turn the scheme into a reality. A similar project has also been separately mooted for a disused section of railway land in Bishopsgate, in London’s City district.

Design and architecture firms Studio Weave and Architecture 00 won an invited design competition and collaborated to create the initial visualisations that show off the proposed route.

Camden Town Unlimited now wants anyone interested in the project to pledge their support via the website. 

Simon Pitkeathley, Camden Town Unlimited’s chief executive, said: “To make this project happen, it’s got to have public support, and it’s got to benefit the local area, which is what we’ll be working on demonstrating in the future.

He added: “We think the re-use of this railway line for the Camden Highline outweighs the benefits and costs of leaving it vacant. This new transport link can reduce overcrowding and journey times on the existing cycling and pedestrian routes nearby like Regent’s Canal. Making innovative use of disused space can create new employment opportunities as well as economic, health and quality of life improvements for the local community.”

The ‘Camden Highline’ idea was the brainchild of Oliver O’Brien, an urbanist and researcher at UCL. He wrote a blog about it, and the proposal was subsequently picked up and taken forward by Pitkeathley’s group.

When E&T reported on the scheme in April, Tom Copley, a Labour London Assembly member, said the project would be far better than the now jettisoned Garden Bridge as a means of fostering green space and encouraging walking in the UK’s capital city.

The Garden Bridge, a proposed crossing of the Thames in central London, became stymied by political wrangling because of spiralling costs, and the project was recently ditched by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan. It is thought the Camden Highline could be delivered for a fraction of the cost.

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