London commuters could one day ditch the Tube for a different kind of underground transportation experience. A proposal by global architecture firm Gensler would turn out-of-use metro tunnels and other subterranean infrastructure in the city into public space, creating a sleek new pedestrian park and cycleway to ease pressure on London’s transportation system.
The city recently reached a population milestone: it’s now home to 8.6 million people, the highest number of residents in its history. That number could grow to as much as 10 million by 2030. This increase in density brings major challenges for the city’s transportation network. How do you move 10 million people around in an efficient, sustainable way?
Gensler’s concept for the London Underline adapts forgotten train tunnels for use as a walkway and bicycle path. It would be powered by footsteps–kinetic energy tiles placed in heavily trafficked pedestrian areas like the Charing Cross transit station. The old tunnels would be paved and lit to provide a transportation alternative to the subway or biking on the street. Gensler proposes that it could run between existing transit stations within the city, starting with central London’s Holborn, Charing Cross, and Greenpark stations.
An underground cycle highway would give Londoners a space to travel protected from the scourges of traffic and wet weather. This would further London Mayor Boris Johnson’s cycling revolution–adding to above-ground schemes like Norman Foster’s ambitious cycle highway concept. Ideally, according to Gensler, the London Underline would also be home to retailers, and would host pop-ups and cultural events–creating an entirely new public space underground, not unlike the plan for New York’s LowLine.
Londoners could certainly use the extra elbow room created by moving underground. And London urban planners seem to agree. This week, the Underline won a London Urban Planning award–with Boris Johnson on the judging panel–for best conceptual project.
Funding hasn’t been secured to make the project a reality, but it’s not a complete long shot, according to a Gensler representative. The tunnel infrastructure already exists, and the mayor has expressed support for the project.