Green light for ‘eco-friendly’ HS2 bridge

HS2 has received planning permission from Birmingham City Council for its ‘eco-friendly’ road bridge, over the HS2 line in Birmingham.

The Aston Church Road Overbridge, which will span the high-speed rail line connecting Saltley, Washwood Heath and Nechells in north-east Birmingham, has been given Schedule 17 approval after a public consultation.

Initial designs for the bridge were shared with the public in 2021, with local feedback resulting in design changes to include a wider walkway, space for cyclists and an improved lighting system.

The LED lighting aims to increase lighting levels for pedestrians and cyclists and improve the level of safety, whilst reducing light spill to trains below. It will also protect wildlife, particularly bats that may forage underneath the bridge, by decreasing overall light pollution.

In addition, public feedback resulted in the stainless steel finish being replaced with weathered steel panels incorporating a perforated pattern to maximise light and views, making the bridge feel warmer and improving the pedestrian experience.

HS2’s designers, consisting of a Design Joint Venture of Mott MacDonald and Systra working for BBV, have also introduced green spaces by creating new woodland planting in the area around the bridge. This includes silver birch, hazel and hawthorn, and wildflowers and grasses which will provide new wildlife havens and connectivity in the city’s industrial heartland.

David King, senior project manager at HS2 said: “We welcome the approval of our designs for Aston Church Road Overbridge by Birmingham City Council. We’ve worked closely with the Council and local community to make sure this bridge blends with the local surroundings and enhances and connects green spaces in this urban part of Birmingham.

“The bridge is a key part of the wider improvements HS2 is bringing to this area of Birmingham, providing better pedestrian and cycle connectivity for the local community which will help support longer-term sustainable economic growth for the area.”

Nick McGough, director at Weston Williamson + Partners, and lead architect for the Balfour Beatty VINCI Design Joint Venture, which is constructing the line in the West Midlands, said: “Reflecting community feedback, our designs balance challenging technical constraints in developing a robust but elegant bridge, whilst seeking every opportunity to both enhance the user experience and increase biodiversity through our adjoining landscape proposals.

“The integrated bridge lighting is particularly innovative and reduces urban light pollution in a way which is sympathetic to local wildlife whilst providing enhanced light levels that will help make the bridge attractive to both pedestrians and cyclists.”

The new alignment of Aston Church Road with the creation of safe pedestrian crossing points has also provided an opportunity to provide a new public space in front of the local mosque.

Weston Williamson + Partners have worked with participants from the community and users of Masjid Ali Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat Mosque, resulting in proposed designs for a paved area with seating, a cycle crossing, and an area for ornamental shrubs and tree planting.

Preparatory works, ready for the new bridge, began last year. Main civil works will now commence, and the bridge and associated highway works are due to be finished in the summer of 2025.