It will be one of the grandest pieces of railway architecture since the Victorian age – a brand new bridge longer than the famous Forth Bridge, built in the heroic tradition of Stephenson and Brunel.
The bridge, which will carry the new HS2 high-speed rail line for 3.4km across a series of lakes and waterways on the north west outskirts of London, will be almost a kilometre longer than Scotland’s famous rail bridge and carry trains travelling at speeds of up to 200mph.
Set low in the landscape, the design was inspired by the flight of a stone skipping across the water, with a series of elegant spans, some up to 80m long, carrying the railway around 10m above the surface of the lakes, River Colne and Grand Union Canal.
The structure will be supported by 56 piers, with the widest spans reserved for where the viaduct crosses the lakes, and narrower spans for the approaches. This design was chosen to enable views across the landscape, minimise the viaduct’s footprint on the lakes and help complement the natural surroundings.
But do we really need it any longer? The pandemic has changed the way we live and work, possibly for ever. Every day surveys show how many people will continue to work from home after the pandemic is over. Big banks and other businesses are scaling back their offices and technology demonstrates that business people do not need so many face-to-face meetings. A sustainable future for this expensive high speed railway seems less certain than ever. How much better to invest the money in our ailing local railways to help rebuild communities.