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Railways, urban form and town planning in London: 1900-1947

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There was a close, although variable, relationship between the development of the railway network and patterns of urbanization in nineteenth century England. From an early date one of the aims of State intervention in the developing railway network was to secure aims of relevance to town planners: minimization of the negative impact of construction on the built environment and cheap travel for the poor. By the turn of the century the potential role of the railways in helping to tackle the problem of the slums was well documented; planning enthusiasts of the day were mindful of this and of the need to plan the railway network in the public interest. The railway interests were also aware of this potential for the railways to play a greater role with regard to the housing issue and called for the companies to be given the power to engage in land development in association with their new schemes. These issues were brought into sharpest focus in London. Between 1900 and 1947 the railway network was modernized to play a central role in the rapid growth of suburbia, despite the fact that the national railway network was entering a period of relative decline. However, planners' dislike of this suburban growth led to growing criticism of this role of the railways, and their support for the planned decentralization of London's population was predicated on a lesser role for them. Planners' attention turned towards the motor vehicle and road building. A conceptual gap opened up between town planning and the railway network.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1997-01-01

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