Will the UK's transport system cope with housing white paper plans?

Major residential development projects need to take note of transportation links, one development finance lender has warned.

The recently published housing white paper has put an emphasis on building new residential developments near transport hubs to allow people to commute into their place of work.

However, earlier this month, mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned the government that the capital’s transport network could grind to a halt if plans for Crossrail 2 weren’t backed.

Coupled with the recent Southern Rail strike disruption and the ever increasing rail fare prices across the country, Development Finance Today wanted to find out whether the UK’s transport system could cope with the government’s housing ambitions outlined in the white paper.

'I worry about each new housing development'

Michael Dean, principal at Avamore Capital, felt the transport system could not cope with the growing number of commuters and was worried by the amount of time it would take the government to commission infrastructure projects to resolve the issue.

“Speaking from experience – [whereby] I have to stand on a train for 45 minutes each morning into London – I worry about each new housing development ‘upstream’ making my trains even more packed.

“Similar issues should be expected on road networks around the UK, which have seen large increases in housing numbers (especially out of town).”

Bob Sturges, head of PR and communication at Fortwell Capital, also saw issues here as the existing transport infrastructure was already creaking.

“More than ever, therefore, it is essential that future major residential development projects take a holistic approach incorporating housing density, transportation links and civic infrastructure.

“Without all three properly catered for, buyers and renters simply may not appear.

"Both Crossrail and HS2 exhibit elements of how this might work on the ground, but are, nevertheless, just forerunners in an overall solution that will take years, billions of pounds and the resolution of many wrangles to fulfil."

More commuters could put an added strain on rail networks

Luke Townsend, founder and CEO of Zorin Finance, felt that whether new homes were built or not, pressures on the UK’s transport system would continue to increase due to the projected rise in population.

“It is an obvious truism that people will travel to work where there is work to travel to, regardless of housing availability, and, as such, building new developments near regional transport hubs into major city centres will simply be [a] response to commuter trends rather than a cause.

“Building more homes outside city centres may lead to an increase [in] people choosing to relocate to suburban and rural areas, however, an urban exodus of any significance would free up housing capacity in the city and in turn attract more people to move back.”

Where should the government focus on creating new housing zones?

Michael still believed the government should centre the delivery of new housing around transport nodes, but also close to centres of employment.

“This will create truly sustainable cities.

“Understandably, families will want to be located in more suburban or rural areas, in which case housing delivery should be focused around locations with strong transportation links to major employment centres.”

Apartment blocks
Taller residential buildings near centres of work could ease transport concerns

Meanwhile, Luke felt building more taller buildings in densely populated areas would put UK cities in line with global cities such as Tokyo, Paris, New York and Boston.

However, he felt the government should drop the term ‘green belt’ and decide which areas were ones of natural beauty and which could be used to create 800,000 new homes around London.

“The term green belt is a blunt anachronism that harks back to a romanticised, Jane Austenesque [vision] of rural England’s pleasant pastures seen.

“The truth is, however, that the so-called green belt – especially areas which encircle railway stations and industrial parks – are often barren wastelands serving no purpose except the storage of discarded shopping trolleys and the incubation of Japanese knotweed.

“…There have been estimates that building on the green belt around Britain’s railway stations would create room for two million homes, while also prompting commuters to use the more efficient transport means of trains rather than cars.”

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