Opened in the early 1960s, the M2 Medway Towns Bypass provided a new way to head to the Channel Ports and a new crossing over the Medway itself. At the time, the viaduct was a marvel of engineering, carrying four traffic lanes on the largest structure of its type in Europe, if not the world. It's also an example of the more sympathetic end of 1960s design, with its simple styling and smooth lines complementing its surroundings.
In 2001, work began to build two parallel viaducts, one for the widening work on the M2, designed to double its capacity to four lanes, and one to carry the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The two new structures were designed to match the profile of the existing viaduct, and today the three of them look very smart spanning the valley together. During the construction of the two new bridges and the renovation of the old one, Chris (no, not me) returned to the site several times to photograph the works.
From the northern end in early 2002, looking out along the original viaduct. To the right, the new road viaduct is visible, and in the foreground is one of the apallingly aligned junctions that the M2 upgrade thankfully redesigned.
At the other side, the new viaduct is ahead of us. The London-bound off slip swerves across the new carriageway on a temporary line to meet the rest of the junction.
The CTRL viaduct is considerably narrower. The rail bed has been built, but looks very unusual, with no ballast and no tracks.
Some months later and the progress is clear: tracks are in place on the CTRL, and what looks like the top surface is in place on the bridge deck of the new road viaduct.
A view from the south west, showing the profile of the rail viaduct which matches almost exactly the original bridge.
On the north side of the motorway, a footpath allows pedestrians and cycles across the Medway. During the works on the viaducts it was closed — and a free minibus service was laid on to replace it.
From the same viewpoint as the first image, the heavy traffic shown here is more usual along this route, and the reason for the widening works becomes apparent.
A view away from the viaducts, where the M2 is temporarily realigned onto the newly built London-bound carriageway. The original roadway has seemingly been removed altogether, to be replaced by a new single carriageway. The new coast-bound carriageway here will be as wide as the whole original motorway.
The realigned exit from the viaduct again. With more of the carriageway surface in place, its context is more clear.
The CTRL follows French practice in being built to follow motorways. Further towards Folkestone it shadows the M20, then cuts north-west to follow the M2 over the Medway and on to London.
On a much colder and gloomier day some time later, what looks like a 'wiring' train is sat on the CTRL line as the overhead cables are fitted.
Another view of the train on the line. Working on top of the carriages to fit the overhead cables must have been pretty vertigo-inducing while the train was sat on the viaduct.
Looking north again, and the new coast-bound carriageway takes shape. Some lane markings are in place while, to the left, the M2 runs entirely on its new London-bound carriageway.
Towards the end of the works, the M2 was transferred onto the new viaduct so that the old one could be renovated for one-way use. It was built as two separate viaducts, and these works were to create a new, single bridge deck across the two sets of supports so that it would support one wide roadway instead of two narrower ones. For the first and possibly last time, the outside lane has been turned into a car park and container yard!
- All photographs on this page appear courtesy of Chris.
With thanks to Mark Thorne for information on this page.