Linear corridors can be designed, constructed and managed to deliver greater value for the community and the planet, a new Hassell study reveals.

The new landmark study, Corridors: Designing linear infrastructure in a non-linear world takes a cross-sector look at the impact of built corridors on people and planet, as well as that of urban developments on natural corridors. Combining knowledge from the railway, roadway, waterway, and utility sectors across Australia, China, Singapore, Europe, and North America, the study explores how linear infrastructure can be designed to deliver greater value for all through a unified, holistic corridor design approach.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the global road, railway, and waterway networks are an estimated 40 million km, 1.3 million km, and 631,000 km in length, respectively (Source: – combined, these corridors could loop 1000 times around the Earth. However, these massive networks equally lead to great levels of connectivity and fragmentation because linear infrastructure can also be a barrier to movement.

The multi-dimensional impacts of corridors

By building connections across landscapes, we have segregated communities, ecologies, nutrient flows, and land use functions, inadvertently contributing to social inequality, biodiversity loss, and regional resource deficits, reveals the study.

“Through the creation of a common taxonomy and associated workshop toolkit, ‘Corridors’ offers a practical approach to breaking down silos and facilitating holistic thinking,” says Hassell’s urban research lead Camilla Siggaard-Andersen.

By focusing on evolving infrastructure from single-use to multi-benefit, the study aims to inform, inspire, and empower a worldwide transition from a siloed approach to a more diverse, integrated, and outcome-oriented method of shaping linear space.

The call for a holistic approach

It is increasingly evident that corridors should aim to deliver economic benefits, enhance social connectivity, and reduce habitat fragmentation simultaneously.

Hassell argues that corridors – both existing and new – must be designed and managed as complex spaces, bringing together overlapping uses, integrated systems, and holistic measures. With the new research report, Hassell calls upon key stakeholders including governments, infrastructure project consortia, engineers, and decision makers to come together to plan, design and manage integrated infrastructure for the betterment of society and the planet, based on three determining factors: purpose, design and optimal outcomes.

“By publishing this report, we hope to urge collaborations between diverse stakeholders toward creating more sustainable, resilient, and community-oriented integrated infrastructure solutions,” says Siggaard-Andersen.

Hassell's expertise

Hassell has been involved in the planning, design, and construction of more than 100 corridors world-wide, totalling over 1,200 linear kilometres. The report showcases over 30 corridor projects that achieve positive outcomes – for people, planet, and prosperity.

Key examples include:

Hassell’s planting scheme of 250,000 native plants is re-establishing the natural habitat corridor along the Southern Expressway in Adelaide, Australia.

Southern Expressway

(L-R): Southern Expressway, Adelaide, Australia. Photographer: Simon Stanbury; Central Green Forest Park, Beijing, China. Photographer: Xi Rao and Xuefeng Li; River Torrens Linear Park, Adelaide, Australia. Photographer: Peter Bennetts

Hassell’s West Bund Waterfront Public Realm reclaims former industrial wastelands in Shanghai to regenerate 11.4km along the Huangpu River. West Bund restores habitats and offers abundant riverside public space that has fast become one of the city’s most loved destinations.

West Bund

(L-R): Williamstown Station Level Crossing Removal Project, Melbourne. Photographer: Sarah Pannell; Colma Creek, South San Francisco, San Francisco US. Image: Hassell; West Bund Waterfront Public Realm, Shanghai, China. Image: Hassell

Hassell’s Metro North West project in Sydney catalyses significant precinct developments by adding 36km of railway line to the state capital’s existing network, served by new and upgraded stations.

Metro North West

(L-R): Longgang River Blueway, Shenzhen, China. Photographer: Chill Shine; Metro North West, Sydney, Australia. Photographer: Brett Boardman; Pacific Highway Upgrade, NSW, Australia. Photographer: Greg Jackson

Industry support

Hassell’s Corridors report already has peer and industry support as a valuable framework for creating holistic integrated infrastructure.

"As infrastructure designers, Knight Architects is all too familiar with the competing outcomes within corridor projects. Hassell's report is compelling in its scope and, crucially, it provides tools and a common language to facilitate action. This report should be on the meeting table from Day One of every corridor project," says Knight Architects managing director Martin Knight.

“The analysis of the extent of linear corridors and the parcels they create is interesting. The sentiment of multiuse and using linear corridors for so much more is spot on,” notes Urban Design Roads and Waterways, Transport for NSW director Gareth Collins.

The Heart Gardening Project founder Emma Cutting adds: “Hassell’s report sets out the importance of creating corridors for wildlife as well as people. Transforming urban streets intentionally into buzzing, wriggling wildlife corridors will help humans reconnect with nature and address many enormous social, environmental and economic problems in our cities and beyond.”