The area around two new viaducts over the river Cole, near Coleshill in the West Midlands, will be transformed for local people to enjoy as part of the construction of Britain’s new high-speed railway, HS2.
The landscape around the new viaducts will create new public spaces with footpaths and cycleways allowing people to enjoy and better understand their local heritage. Natural habitats will also be created for local wildlife, and access to water will create opportunities for fishing and walks around the river.
The current viaduct designs allow for space to provide a ‘nature-led’ realignment of the river, increasing its biodiversity and to provide flood compensation areas. Habitats and ponds will create new homes for amphibians, dragonflies, otters, great crested newts, reptiles and badgers, which will all benefit from these new ecological features.
The area has a rich history, including a medieval deer park, the Tudor Coleshill Manor and the expansive Elizabethan garden that HS2 archaeologists recently uncovered.
New integrated designs for the structures include reducing the height of the western viaduct from 10 metres to four metres, which results in a 36% reduction in materials being used and a 26% reduction in the viaduct’s carbon footprint. Changing the girder from concrete to steel also brings environmental benefits, including reducing the use of materials and the construction time, with 97% of the steel coming from recycled sources.
North of the viaducts, embankments around the existing Coleshill Manor will be planted with woodlands designed to complement existing vegetation. Accessible new green spaces will enrich the existing estate by taking inspiration from the parkland landscape setting of Coleshill Manor. The design will highlight the historical and ecological make-up of the site and links between Coleshill Manor and the river.
Further north, at Chattle Hill near the Water Orton viaducts, there are plans for a ‘blossom walk’ to link to a new community orchard and allotment areas, along with the planting of fruit trees and herbs for foraging.
Christoph Brintrup, HS2’s head of landscape design, said: “HS2’s enhancements to the integrated design of the viaducts and landscape in this area have made the most of the rich local history and biodiversity, creating the opportunity for fantastic new spaces for people and wildlife to enjoy. Our multi-functional design will enhance biodiversity, provide an inclusive, healthy and accessible landscape, and also help stitch the Delta Junction into its surrounding context.
“Our design and construction approaches aim to achieve HS2’s wider environmental commitments to reduce our carbon footprint. Most of the steel used to construct the viaducts will come from recycled sources, and we’re also pleased that design improvements have resulted in a big reduction in materials used to construct the viaducts.”
The section of the HS2 route where the River Cole viaducts are located is known as the Delta Junction, a triangular section of line where the HS2 route curves west towards Birmingham and runs north towards Crewe and beyond. The River Cole West and River Cole East Viaducts curve away from the northbound route, bringing HS2 passengers into the heart of Birmingham at the city’s Curzon Street Station.
The Design Joint Venture working for Balfour Beatty VINCI JV (BBV) on these proposals consists of global consultancies Mott MacDonald and Systra, together with architects Weston Williamson + Partners.
Nick McGough, lead architect for the BBV Design Joint Venture, said: “This is currently a complex area, with existing motorways and railway infrastructure isolating the site. Our design vision will use the Delta Junction as a catalyst to integrate HS2 into the landscape by creating a harmonic relationship with the railway, the site and wider landscape through local connectivity, habitat creation and biodiversity, landscape integration and flood risk mitigation.
“Close collaboration between multiple teams has been essential in developing designs, including the involvement of ecologists, landscape architects, engineers and architects among others. This has resulted in developing the River Cole viaducts so they sit lower in the landscape, utilising a weathering steel deck with longer spans and sculpting the piers to remove over 33% of the material from previous designs.
“In the past, the river had been used for pleasure boating by the Edwardians. The arrival of HS2 means the area will once again promote travel across this landscape including the installation of new footpaths and cycle ways for local people to use.”