Increased goods traffic in the run-up to the Christmas shopping rush – creating a spike in bridge-strikes – has led Network Rail to reveal Britain’s most-hit bridges as part of a campaign to remind drivers and operators of their obligations to prevent costly and dangerous bridge strikes.
Bridge strikes cost taxpayers millions of pounds and delay thousands of passengers and road users every year.
Network Rail typically deals with more bridge strikes in October and November than at any other time of the year.
Research suggests the shorter days and rise in the number of deliveries leading up to Christmas are likely to be the biggest reasons.
Most bridge strikes happen between 10am and 11am, but remain high all day until around 6pm.
The Watling Street bridge on the A5 in Hinckley, Leicestershire was the most-bashed rail bridge in the last financial year (1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020). Vehicles struck it 25 times, causing unnecessary delays and safety risks for rail passengers, motorists and locals.
The second most-struck rail bridge was the Bromford Road bridge in Dudley, West Midlands. It caused the most rail passenger delays attributed to bridge strikes with a staggering 4,300 minutes. That’s almost 72 hours of disruption from 24 bridge strikes.
Network Rail has worked with industry bodies – including Highways England and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) – and hauliers for years.
This has led to a Bridge Strike Prevention Group to ensure companies and their employees have the knowledge and tools they need to avoid striking bridges.
Bridge strike incidents fell by 11% to 1,714 in the last financial year but they remain a dangerous and costly concern.
Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chair of Network Rail, said: “We’ve done a lot of work with partners across the industry in recent years to tackle bridge strikes, and whilst it’s encouraging to see our work is paying off with numbers now on the decline, there’s a lot more to be done to cut the unnecessary delays, costs and safety risks they pose.”
In November and December, reminders to ‘Wise Up, Size Up’ will feature on petrol pumps at motorway service stations across Britain along with posters, reminding drivers to check their routes before setting off.
Senior traffic commissioner Richard Turfitt issued a letter last month to all goods vehicle and public service vehicle (PSV) operator licence holders.
It warned regulatory action, which could result in the loss of their operator’s licence, was real possibility should they fail to take appropriate control measures to prevent bridge strikes.
The letter says operators should:
- Assess the risks and ensure that routes are planned in advance, so far as is reasonably practicable
- ensure that drivers, transport managers and planners are properly trained to enable them to assess the risks
- ensure that drivers are be provided with adequate information including about the vehicles which they are driving.
In providing information that allows anyone planning or altering a route, operators should consider how to:
- ensure that drivers have access to height conversion charts
- ensure that sites have height measurement gauges
- ensure that each vehicle and trailer in the fleet has an established running height on its technical record
- ensure that running heights are available to anyone planning a route including drivers who encounter unexpected or unmapped obstructions, such as temporary works
Most struck railway bridges in Britain 2019/20:
1. Watling Street Hinckley, Leicestershire 25 strikes
2. Bromford Road Dudley, West Midlands 24 strikes
3. St John’s Street Lichfield, Staffordshire 23 strikes
4. Stuntney Road Ely, Cambridgeshire 19 strikes
5. Abbey Farm Thetford, Norfolk 16 strikes
6. Thurlow Park Road Tulse Hill, London 14 strikes
7. Carlisle Road Cleland, North Lanarkshire 13 strikes
8. Harlaxton Road Grantham, Lincolnshire 13 strikes
9. Stonea Road Stonea, Cambridgeshire 13 strikes
10. Coddenham Road Needham Market, Suffolk 11 strikes
11. Lower Downs Road Wimbledon, London 11 strikes
12. Warminster Road Wilton, Wiltshire 10 strikes
13. Prescott Street Wigan, Greater Manchester 10 strikes
14. Greenhills Road Paisley, Renfrewshire 9 strikes
15. Newhouse Road South Ruislip, London 9 strikes
16. Kenworthy Road Homerton, London 9 strikes
17. St John’s Road Isleworth, London 9 strikes
18. Jews Lane Twerton, Somerset 9 strikes
19. Barrowby Road Grantham, Lincolnshire 8 strikes
20. Cambridge Road Hitchin, Hertfordshire 8 strikes