As the HS2 project expands through the north of England, designers are being tasked with the objective of maintaining the natural habitats and ecosystems of the areas affected by construction works. Designers have released updated designs for the land surrounding the section of the high-speed rail line that crosses the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, in response to community feedback.
The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal viaduct is located north of HS2’s Delta Junction, a triangle-shaped series of viaducts that allows HS2 trains to travel between London, the Midlands, and the North.
HS2’s main works contractor, Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), have responded to community feedback through the incorporation of a series of wetlands containing four new ecological ponds, expansive grass meadows and approximately 22,000 m² of newly established woodland alongside the embankment to the north of the viaduct that is part of the green corridor planting - the equivalent of three football pitches.
The plans include a potential green space that would be situated south of the canal, utilising informal paths that would connect the towpath to Seeney Lane. This green patch would aid the support of local species that inhabit the area, accompanied by the reinstation of an existing hedgerow running along the towpath. This will maintain bat flight corridors along the canal, with the species-rich grasslands providing homes for insects and bees; and new trees will screen views of the M42.
An ecological habitat to support biodiversity will also be created further north, including two ponds, planting zones and hedgerows to connect Cuttle Mill fishery and woodlands to the HS2 green corridor alongside the railway.
HS2’s Senior Landscape Design Manager Steve Fancourt, said:
“We aim to integrate HS2 into the landscape as much as possible, as well as transforming areas around the railway to provide community benefits, protect wildlife and enhance local biodiversity. The updated designs for the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal viaduct include exciting new wetland habitats which can be enjoyed by people and create diverse new connected areas for wildlife.”
HS2’s commitment to supporting biodiversity and environmental stability throughout their project, shows the dedication to ensuring that rail travel is the cleanest and greenest form of public transport. This can also be seen through the scheme to plant up to 7 million trees as part of its extensive green corridor programme including species such as Silver Birch, Hazel, Hawthorne and Holly along the Phase One route between London and the West Midlands. Over 220,000 trees have already been planted and 40 new ponds created in the West Midlands.
Andy deBell, Head of Community Engagement for BBV, said:
“Our detailed designs for the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct have responded to feedback provided by the local community in 2021, and stem from how people wish to use and experience the canal.
“Our plans, which include public open spaces and environmental features for wildlife, will enhance the landscape, creating the potential for local people to have access to green spaces along the line of route while creating diverse habitats for local wildlife.”
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