Unique footbridge design set to provide safer access across the railway at South Downs National Park

  • Local people and visitors are set to enjoy safer access across the railway at Tide Mills in the South Downs National Park after Network Rail’s proposals for a stunning new footbridge were approved.

The footbridge, which has been designed to blend with the local landscape and heritage features of the old village of Tide Mills, will provide safer access to Seaford beach and the surrounding landscape.

The existing footpath crossing which takes people across the railway is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the country and been identified as ‘very high risk’. Once the new footbridge is in place, the footpath crossing will permanently close.

The bridge design was developed for Network Rail by specialist bridge design consultancy Knight Architects and engineering firm Arup, in collaboration with the South Downs National Park and local interest groups.

Paul Donald, Network Rail South East, said:

“Working with the South Downs National Park Authority and local interest groups, and our designers Knight Architects and Arup, we are pleased to have developed a bespoke design that improves public safety, public access and the safe enjoyment of the area, all while protecting the local landscape and heritage”.

Tim Slaney, Director of Planning at the South Downs National Park Authority, said:

“The project is sensitively-designed and adds a new dimension to the landscape and cultural heritage of the area.

“The bridge provides an opportunity to enhance biodiversity through the introduction of appropriate planting on the embankments and improved habitat management. The bridge also enables all to appreciate new views and interpretation of the lost village of Tide Mills, which is an area of significant archaeological interest.”

Victoria Richardson, Project Manager, Arup said:

“This unique footbridge will significantly increase safety for people crossing the Tide Mills railway and we are pleased to have worked closely with Network Rail and Knight Architects to deliver a durable and elegant design for the crossing. The structural form and materials chosen have been carefully integrated with the local wildlife and landscape to harmonise the design and construction process with the local ecology of the South Downs National Park”.

Laura Langridge, Knight Architects, said:

“The special landscape of the South Downs coast was the inspiration for our unique design, which combines an innovative, site-specific response with an accessible solution that improves safety at a much-used railway crossing. The new bridge will provide a recreational journey through the landscape which also offers new viewpoints of the coast and the historic lost village of Tide Mills, and we are delighted the South Downs National Park Authority has endorsed our approach and supported the aims of Network Rail.”

Network Rail’s planning application to provide a new footbridge was approved by the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee at a meeting in Midhurst on Thursday 11 July.

About the bridge

The flat landscape surrounding the proposed bridge provides far reaching views across the open floodplain as well as allowing the footbridge to be widely visible.

A selection of local and natural materials has been chosen carefully in order to compliment the surrounding environment. These materials will naturally weather and blend with the tones and colours of the coastal scenery.

Views across the landscape are encouraged by asymmetrical walkway parapets on the railway side of the footbridge, with an open and transparent stainless-steel mesh on the landscape side.

High, heavy charred timber profiles, reminiscent of railway sleepers, have been used in order to frame the view of Tide Mills and out to sea, whilst also screening the railway and the industrial port of Newhaven.

Following the successful planning application, Network Rail will now seek funding to install the new footbridge.