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'Transport corridors' proposed to tackle road congestion

An innovative solution to reduce road congestion by allowing motorists to pass through purpose-built buildings has been proposed by a retired civil engineer who specialised in transport strategy. 

Robert Cattell - who worked for Jacobs, Betchel, KBR and Amec Foster Wheeler, during a 40-year career - has laid out his plans in a paper titled Development of integrated urban transport corridors.

To address the problem of congestion, Cattell has proposed that some underused railway rights-of-way are developed into integrated transport corridors by placing the rail tracks into ‘cut and cover’ tunnels below ground and siting elevated expressways along the same alignment upon the roofs of high-quality buildings over them (see images above). 

Cattell explains: “The buildings would be of between two and four stories and especially suitable for use by enterprises dependent on motor transport. Since these enterprises would enjoy direct access to the expressways, commercial activity involving goods vehicles would tend to concentrate on the transport corridors, over time removing this traffic from inner city streets and allowing existing industrial areas remote from the corridors to be redeveloped for housing.

“The corridors would provide purpose built urban expressways and acres of additional commercial building space. At the same time the existing railways could be updated and improved […] The existing underused railway corridors, all needing to be maintained but producing little income, would be replaced by a vibrant ribbon of new business start-ups and the adjacent areas of the city would be greatly revitalised.”

He adds: “The expressways would be screened from the view of pedestrians at ground level by noise-cum-sight barriers, built as mansard roofs on the buildings (but open at the top), and they would be almost unnoticeable from ground level, as would the railways. The buildings would be on a scale to match the buildings at each location and would vary in height and style along the route and, responding to the needs of local communities, preserve and enhance the existing character of the built environment.”

Cattell conceded such a proposal would not be adopted in the UK unless it substantially improves the environment of people affected by it and has a strong business plan enabling it to be financed through the private sector.

He added: “The current mood in Britain seems to be that the problem of congestion can only be solved through restricting access to the road system by higher pricing, and that little can be done to improve the infrastructure itself.

“The professions involved with the built environment that can appreciate what is possible - town planners, architects, civil engineers and developers -must dispel this defeatist mindset. Road use charging is part of the solution, but motorists must be offered excellence in return.

“The reality is that we can upgrade our transport infrastructure to the highest standards we could wish for and still preserve and enhance the character of our urban environment. London has advantages conferred by its history not enjoyed by other cities and it is time we made the best use of them.”

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