Rural footbridge design, via HS2

HS2’s new rural footbridge designs come to light

HS2 have revealed the first images of upcoming bridges which will carry rural footpaths and bridleways across the new high-speed railway as it cuts through Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and West Northants.

The new bridges are set to be built out of weathering steel, which ages naturally to a russet brown colour. This design will help to integrate the bridges into the surrounding countryside, while the plates that form the structure of the bridges will be angled to appear narrower and lighter. The sides  will be angled outwards to maximise the views available and improve passenger experiences as they cross the railway.

The designs will see most of the bridges consist of just one 42m span, seeing extra spans added where necessary, creating bridges of up to 102m long. Each of these spans is designed to be slightly higher in the middle, which will create an emphasis on lightness within the project so that they appear to leap over the railway.

The design for the bridges has an emphasis on efficiency within the manufacturing process and assembly, seeing all bridges having the same basic form, with the approach paths built into the earthworks on either side of the bridge. The design choice allows all footbridges to be step-free. Internal faces of the bridges feature oak panelling and perforated stainless steel to allow views along the railway.

Welcoming the new design, HS2 Design Director Kay Hughes said:

“HS2 will provide fast and frequent zero carbon journeys between London, the midlands, and the north. But it’s also essential that we keep communities on either side of the railway connected.

“That’s why I’m pleased to see the first standard footbridge designs for the project. The elegant bridges have been specially designed for Bucks, Oxon, and West Northants, with weathering steel beams to match the tone of the surrounding countryside. I hope that walkers, riders, and the community will welcome the new bridges and benefit from the huge amount of high-quality design work that the design team has undertaken to develop them. “

The bridges were designed by HS2’s main work contractor, EKFB - a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall – collaborating with designers Arcadis Setec Cowi and architects Moxon.

Designers also received guidance from the British Horse Society as the bridges which carry bridleways will have a structural impression that acts like a baffle to stop horse being distracted by passing trains. The integration of horse safety into designs shows HS2’s dedication to enhance the communities surrounding their infrastructural designs, working to incorporate local needs instead of shunning them. In keeping with this ideal, the footbridges will be 2.5m wide, while bridleways will be 3.5m wide to allow two horses to pass comfortably and safely.

The footbridges were designed to manage the pressure waves created by trains passing underneath at speeds of up to 225mph (360km/h). EKFB’s designers developed bespoke engineering criteria to model the effect on the structure and design out uncomfortable vibration. As an extra precaution, the bridges can also be adjusted after construction to ensure the solution works.

Eleven locations have been identified for the new design – around Aylesbury, the Chilterns, Chipping Warden, Westbury and Finmere. The first footbridge is expected to be installed in October 2023.

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