The Bartlett School of Architecture


Tom Bolton

Tom Bolton | PhD thesis | Wrong Side of the Tracks: The Development of London’s Railway Terminus Neighbourhoods

View of train tracks on the approach to Victoria Station in London. Tom Bolton.



Wrong Side of the Tracks: The Development of London’s Railway Terminus Neighbourhoods

Primary and secondary supervisors


The commonly-used phrase ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ implies that railway lines separate places as a matter of course, with economic and social consequences. London has more railway termini than any other world city, with apparent economic, social and spatial differences between places located in front of them and those behind. Contemporary research focuses on transport functions, on the economic potential of station buildings and on the potential for rail to increase catalyse redevelopment, while ignoring their role as the largest buildings in the city, creating separation within the street network.

This thesis analyses eight main London railway termini in two time periods: the 1880s and the 2010s. These stations are served by different infrastructure types, from cuttings to viaducts, which form movement barriers in areas located behind them, which are also associated with social decline and post-industrial redevelopment.

Space syntax analysis uncovers the impacts of railway termini and their associated structures on movement networks. The economic and social character of areas around the stations is then analysed, to identify differences between neighbourhoods in front of and behind stations. Historical data is mapped and compared with contemporary data, including land uses for both periods and social data from the Booth Poverty Survey, which is compared to contemporary income estimates.

Analysis of spatial, social and economic character shows how the railway has influenced neighbourhoods located behind termini over a long period of time. The nature of this influence depends on infrastructure type, viaducts being associated with less separation than other railway structures. This research is significant for the long-term redevelopment of railway termini, demonstrating their importance as an integral part of the city and the significance of understanding the separation they create.


Tom Bolton is an academic researcher specialising in cities and space, urban culture and histories, architecture, urban design, planning, regeneration and London.

Tom is also a writer and urban researcher, specialising in London. He has a wide experience of leading public walks, giving lectures (including the Royal Geographical Society Monday Night Lecture), radio (BBC Radio 4, World Service, BBC London etc.), and writing articles including for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Londonist and others.

Tom was previously Head of Research at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, and Senior Researcher at Centre for Cities. 

Publications and other work


  • 28 September 2017 – Camden Town: Dreams of Another London (British Library Publications)
  • 2015 – Vanished City (Strange Attractor) “A fine addition to the canon of London histories” – Caught by the River
  • 2011 – London’s Lost Rivers: A Walkers Guide (Strange Attractor) “A cracking read” – Londonist

Academic papers

  • September 2017 – Bolton, T. ‘Railway terminals and separation: Paddington and Marylebone Stations, London’ in Urban Renewal, Community and Participation – Theory, Policy and Practice, Wise, N. & Clark, J. (eds.) Springer.
  • 2015 – Bolton, T. ‘The Spatial Character of London’s Railway Terminals’, Proceedings of the 10th Space Syntax Symposium, London: UCL
  • 2014 – Vaughan, L., Bolton, T., The Past, Present and Futures of the High Street. The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, London: UCL
  • 2013 – Bolton, T., Hildreth, P. Mid-Sized Cities: Their role in England’s Economy, London: Centre for Cities