High Speed 2 Vision for Design

High Speed 2 and connections, (credit: By Cnbrb (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

High Speed 2 and connections, (credit: Cnbrb [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s an interesting article by Charles Crawford of LDA Design in the current 19 August 2015 issue of Rail. This summarizes elements of the HS2 Design Vision. HS2 being the high speed railway from London to Birmingham and to Manchester and Leeds and then points north. Speeds are to be upto 400 km/h (250 mph). Construction is forecast to start in 2017 with Birmingham being reached by 2026 and the two northern branches by 2033. The necessity for such a rail network will be continued to increase as various companies and railway transport businesses look at improving their railway marketing in the UK, in hopes of becoming one of many providers that will run the HS2 lines.

Crawford argues that a mitigation-led design, e.g. tunnels, cuttings and lots of noise bunds and obviation of visual and landscape impact is not the way forwards. Rather that there are five elements to the Design Vision for HS2 which should be seen as a positive not defensive design:

  1. A Whole Project Masterplan,

This is an argument for a national design narrative, and overall identity. This is more than a common house style for stations, bridges, but rather a masterplan for the entire route and how it relates to its context, including the varying landscapes, ecology, cultural heritage, hydrology and communities, so that the while is greater than its parts. Precedents might be the Great Western, London to Bristol Railway, or the Shinkansen of Japan.

  1. Passenger Experience

Of the 230km route of phase 1 to Birmingham, some 53km will be in tunnel and 74km in cutting, which is over 55% of the journey. So it is vital that the remainder enhances the passengers’ journey (think of those splendid first views over Rainham Marshes as the Eurostar leaves the tunnel after Stratford). This is an argument for lineside restoration, mitigation and enhancement as part of a “celebration of English landscape”.

  1. Integrated Design

This argues for surface water balancing being used to create a range of new habitats with earth modeling to mitigate noise and planting to screen sensate views. This may extend to creation of country parks and and nature reserves.

  1. Economic Regeneration

This is design which aims to maximize regeneration as at Old Oak Common in London or Curzon Street the Birmingham terminus. So that stations become hubs of wider regeneration. But this extends to other areas where the HS2 line can lead to environmental improvements linked to economic regeneration.

  1. Environmental Regeneration

This extends the above by addressing environmental degradation along the route, in rural as well as urban areas. For example, small, derelict brownfield sites and by using embankments to provide flood protection.

Crawford ends by quoting the example of the London 2012 Olympic Parks as an example on a smaller scale of what HS2 can achieve. A corrective to the positive tenor of Crawford’s views is to read the position statement by the Wildlife Trusts on HS2 (see below).

Charles Crawford, is a solicitor turned landscape architect, and director of LDA Design, curiously he is also a director of the Kingsland toll bridge, near Shrewsbury. He studied law at Cambridge University (1980-83) and landscape architecture at the University of Central England (1994-98).


Charles Crawford, LDA Design, “Preserving England’s Green and Pleasant Land” Rail, issue 781, 19 August-1 September 2015, pp.32-33

http://www.lda-design.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/August2015_RAIL_Preserving-Engs-green-and-pleasant-land_final.pdf (accessed 24.8.2015)

High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd. HS2 Design Vision March 2015 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hs2-design-vision (accessed 24.8.2015)

Wildlife Trusts Position Statement on Phase 1 of HS2 http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/node/3174 (accessed 24.8.2015)



Robert Holden is a London-based landscape architect who read architecture & landscape architecture at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On graduating he worked for the Dutch Staatsbosbeheer (State Forestry Service) on a visual survey of Oostelijk Flevoland and for Allain Provost in Paris on recreation planning of the French coastline east of Dunkerque. In London he has worked for Derek Lovejoys (1971-75) and Clouston (1976-89) including extensive work in the Middle East. • In the 1980s he was particularly known for his work on business park masterplanning such as Aztec West near Bristol, Capability Green Luton and Colchester Business Park. He was a Clouston director responsible for bureau d’étude work at EuroDisneyland in 1988-9; • since the 1990s he has been involved in smaller practices (including Clifton Design 1990-91 and Holden Liversedge 1991-99), and Cracknell Ferns (1999-2009). • projects have included work in France, Germany, Kuwait, Libya, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Spain, UAE, and Russia as well as the UK. • he was lecturer, latterly Head of Landscape & postgraduate landscape architecture programme leader at the University of Greenwich, 1992-2013. • Currently he serves on the Landscape Institute Council having previously served 1983-86; he was Education Vice President of the European Foundation for Landscape Architecture (2001-4) & from 2005-2008 was EFLA Secretary General. EFLA is now IFLA Europe. • From Feb.-June 2014 he undertook a Tübitak (Turkish Science Research Council) scholarship, at Istanbul Technical University, looking as sustainability & public domain in Istanbul. In 2015 he taught at Corvinus University on their MLA. Interests include sustainability & landscape architecture, post industrial landscapes, landscape construction, the European landscape profession, and aspects of C18th landscape gardening, especially the ferme ornée. HIs latest book (joint with Jamie Liversedge) is "Landscape Architecture as a Career": Laurence King (Feb. 2014) in English and Spanish.

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One comment on “High Speed 2 Vision for Design
  1. Tom Turner says:

    Congratulations to Charles and to LDA. Railways, like streets, should be components of landscape projects. The word ‘infrastructure’ does in fact have this connotation. Infra- means ‘below’ and ‘infrastructure’ was originally used in a military sense, by the French. It meant ‘fixed installations’. They were important but much less important than the activities they supported.