The HS2 plans for the Balsall Common Viaduct in Warwickshire have been submitted to Solihull Council, having incorporated the feedback from the local community, integrating this into designs that have a core focus on the environmental sustainability, landscape assimilation, visual connectivity and public access.
Engaging with people within the local areas, HS2’s main contractor, Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), have gathered key community feedback on the 425-metre-long section of the UK’s new zero-carbon high speed rail line.
The designs of this viaduct have been developed through a key understanding of the surrounding backdrop and vista, allowing the team to create a structure that ‘reflects and reveals’ itself within the landscape.
Ingratiating the structure with local ecological standards, planting and species selection was another key focus, seeing the plans include wet woodland planting using native species to the local area. These species comprise mixed native woodland plants such as midland hawthorn and black poplar, two notable local species; woodland edge planting to provide screening; and hedgerow planting to improve wildlife connections.
The local area has a rich history with the growing of flax, utilised for weaving into linen, which has led to an alternative grass species mix being used, incorporating blue flowered plants including blue flax, cornflower, and forget-me-nots. The trees in various locations will have bird boxes added to serve the common species, such as a robin, blue tit and great tit.
The aquatic habitats have also been a key area of focus for protection, seeing a realignment of Bayleys Brook, thus improving the capacity for fish, aquatic invertebrates and potentially water vole. An integral element to this portion of the design is the 75-metre size reduction to the railway embankment running parallel to Bayleys Brook, which will significantly improve the resiliency to flooding in the surrounding area, whilst enhancing views through the viaduct to the wider landscape.
Connections through the railway will be improved via extension to the Kenilworth Greenway towards Station Road on the south-eastern side of the existing railway line, with a further extension towards Lavender Hall currently under consideration.
HS2 Ltd.’s Senior Project Manager for Balsall Common, Alan Payne said:
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve worked closely with the community and local councillors to incorporate their feedback on Balsall Common Viaduct as much as possible. We’re confident that our plans respect and enhance the local history and natural environment of the area, and will provide new green areas for people and wildlife to enjoy.
“The HS2 project supports nearly 30,000 jobs - of which nearly 9,000 are employed in the West Midlands, with local businesses across the region benefitting from supply chain contracts. Once complete, HS2 will transform journeys across the UK, help boost the economy and provide extra capacity on the existing rail network.”
A total of 16 piers will be constructed to support the viaduct, carrying the structure 10m above the ground as it crosses over Station Road, Bayleys Brook, Heart of England Way Walk and the local floodplain. Thanks to construction refinements, each pier has seen a size reduction of as much as 17% for single piers and 28% for double piers, thus providing the structure with a lighter appearance.
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