A group of Jersey architects have suggested a funicular could be the solution to accessing the island's new hospital. If approved by States members next month, the site at the old Overdale Hospital is due to be completed by 2026.
Mike Waddington, Daniel Prichard and Antony Gibb, who sit on the Jersey Architecture Commission, believe a water-powered funicular linking St Helier town centre to the hilltop site could offer a “a fun and sustainable way" to get there.
We thought that a funicular would solve a number of problems- it could provide a source of delight in terms of the journey, encourage sustainable pedestrian connectivity to the hospital, but also become something slightly iconic. You see funiculars all over the world and they do kind of end up becoming kind of a symbol of whatever town they're in.
The architects say the proposal would fit with the government's 2030 carbon neutral ambitions, and help to make visiting the hospital more accessible to people of all ages.
I particularly like the idea that this concept chimes with Arup’s Public Realm and Movement Strategy for St. Helier and our Government Plan to ‘Put Children First’ as it would be a great way for children to visit elderly relatives in hospital with their mums and dads.
The latest Our Hospital plan proposes “significant engineering works” to straighten, widen and lessen the gradient of Westmount Road to make it suitable for ambulances, buses and trucks. The route will also be made safer for walkers and cyclists. It also envisages a high-frequency bus service from Liberation Station and a segregated cycle lane.
It adds that “options such as funicular railway, Norwegian cycle lifts etc should not be discounted at this stage." Although it acknowledges this would come at considerable cost, which isn't currently factored into the plan.
Water and electric powered funiculars are iconic attractions around the world in cities such as Paris and Lisbon. In the 1970s and 80s an aerial cable car linked St Helier and Fort Regent, but after decades it fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 2018. Mike Waddington believes the proposal could help to foster some positive public engagement around the hospital plans and give people a chance to put forward their own ideas. The architect said he would be having more discussions with the design team and that the idea of the funicular “might work its way in the conversation”.
The details of access to the new facility for all islanders will be considered as part of the design brief. There are many options to ensure people can easily reach the hospital, but the project is not yet at this stage.