Density and dispersion: The co-development of land use and rail in London

David Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


This article examines the changes that occurred in the rail network and density of population in London during the 19th and 20th centuries. It aims to disentangle the 'chicken and egg' problem of which came first, network or land development, through a set of statistical analyses clearly distinguishing events by order. Using panel data representing the 33 boroughs of London over each decade from 1871 to 2001, the research finds that there is a positive feedback effect between population density and network density. Additional rail stations (either Underground or surface) are positive factors leading to subsequent increases in population in the suburbs of London, while additional population density is a factor in subsequently deploying more rail. These effects differ in central London, where the additional accessibility produced by rail led to commercial development and concomitant depopulation. There are also differences in the effects associated with surface rail stations and Underground stations, as the Underground was able to get into central London in a way that surface rail could not. However, the two networks were weak (and statistically insignificant) substitutes for each other in the suburbs, while the density of surface rail stations was a complement to the Underground in the center, though not vice versa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-77
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Economic Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-section time series
  • Induced demand
  • Induced supply
  • Land use
  • London Underground
  • London railways
  • Network growth
  • Panel data
  • Transport


Dive into the research topics of 'Density and dispersion: The co-development of land use and rail in London'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this