This footbridge is a very marked contrast to the one at Swanscombe Cutting that I covered recently.
First, it has a silly name, the "Eureka Skyway". I was just going to call it the M20 Ashford Footbridge, as that's what it crosses and where it is, but I've decided to use its official name for the blog post title. It links two retail parks either side of the motorway, and also acts as a gateway to Ashford itself, an indication to motorway users that perhaps something of significance can be found here.
The £8m bridge was designed by Nicol Russell Studios with Jacobs, and built by BAM Nuttall. It was installed in May 2011 and opened in September 2011. There were rumours before it opened that it suffered from "wobble", but I could feel no evidence of that when I visited earlier this year.
Three immediate precedents come to mind when viewing the Ashford bridge: Lancaster's Lune Millennium Bridge (2001), and Newport's City Footbridge (2006) are two. Closer to Ashford, Maidstone's Lockmeadow Footbridge (1999) has a similar form. All four bridges share a resemblance to a giant crane, with twin masts tied together with cables, and a deck supported from cable stays. There are some structural advantages to this arrangement, chiefly that the angle of the cables supporting the deck is steeper, and hence they provide a stiffer and more efficient support. A significant disadvantage is that maintenance is more difficult, as cables are required with no low-level termination, making it more difficult to adjust or replace them in the future.
architect's website. I thought it looked quite nice, appealing in its height and slenderness. In real life, I found the sheer scale of the bridge to be much more difficult to accept. The bridge deck is roughly 100m long, with a 67m clear span. The masts are 38m high. It's nowhere near as big as the Newport bridge (70m tall, 145m main span), but it's still a very large structure to span a motorway. The span length is driven by the presence of two motorway slip roads, and a watercourse, forcing the bridge to be much larger than is normally required on motorways.
The bridge looks attractive enough when viewed from the motorway, but as a pedestrian it is quite overpowering. The masts tower far above you, and their angle of inclination makes them loom in a way that I don't recall experiencing with vertical masts.
Swansea Sail Bridge as an example of a cable-stayed bridge with an offset mast which doesn't need to be tied down in this way (and where the mast has been more artfully shaped).
Overall, it's a bridge which had the potential to be great, but which is let down by the awkward resolution of many of the details. Notwithstanding the funder's desire for a gateway structure, I found the sheer scale to be oppressive. The bridge at Swanscombe spanned the motorway with delicacy and modesty - the one at Ashford has neither.