The Canal & River Trust has raised “concern” over bridges to be used by the £43bn High Speed 2 (HS2) project.
There will be 40 interfaces between the ultra-modern rapid rail link from London to the North and the Canal and River Trust’s historic network of inland waterways.
“How do we ensure that these huge proposals take account of the special context and character of our waterway world,” asked the trust’s urban design team manager Marcus Chaloner.
“The further north we go, we start looking at viaducts and the issues go beyond engineering and how we maintain this 200-year-old infrastructure to the visual impact and the aesthetic appropriateness of HS2 crossings. My consideration and concern is how do I persuade HS2 to give special and proper consideration to what is a relatively small span within a huge infrastructure project.”
Chaloner welcomed HS2’s ambition for slender, elegant and contemporary structures but said he had concerns about how this early ambition would see its way through to construction.
He said that in some areas the vision of the slender structure was already becoming eroded, resulting in a less satisfactory design.
“What we’re trying to do is to establish some design principles which can be embedded in HS2’s design process which will ensure a certain quality and standard is maintained,” he said.
Chaloner said that for people using the waterways, the space under a bridge was often the most important. If designed poorly then it can become a dark and dank place attracting anti-social behaviour and can cost the trust money removing graffiti.
It would like to see the design for bridges across waterways in open landscapes move away from the traditional approach of two piers with sloped embankments on either side, which narrows the pathway, to extend the bridge and the piers into the land on one side to enable walkers to pass under freely in a more light and inviting environment.
In a closed scene in areas where trees line the banks, the trust said it wanted to span the bridge between solid embankments built up on either side, which would take out “dead space” between the embankment and the piers.
HS2 Ltd spokesman Alastair Cowan said: “The current images of HS2 bridges, viaducts, stations and other structures are purely indicative, designed to provide a sense of size and scale, not final design. We continue to work closely with local planning authorities, communities and interested parties along the route to ensure that the final designs are sensitively treated and appropriate for their location.”
The Canal and River Trust, formally British Waterways, became a charity in 2012 and cares for 3,200km of historic waterways across England and Wales.