Friday 5 June 2020

Lorries can’t limbo, warns Network Rail

The clamour from beleaguered rail managers imploring HGV drivers to pay more attention to their vehicles’ height has grown in volume, after repeated strikes to a bridge in Birmingham forced a five-month road closure in order to enable complex repairs.

The bridge, which runs over Landor Street in the Bordesley Green area, has been hit 32 times since 2009, according to Network Rail, which manages Great Britain’s railway infrastructure.

A special collision protection beam had been installed to reinforce the bridge, but in January it became damaged beyond repair, forcing the road to close while engineers tackled the problem. It is scheduled to reopen later this month.

Piers Burford, project manager for Network Rail, said: “Considerable efforts have been made in the past to protect this bridge from damage but despite this, careless drivers have once again forced Landor Street’s closure.”

Cllr Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment at Birmingham City Council, added: “I would urge drivers of HGVs to ensure they are fully aware of the height of their vehicles in order to avoid striking bridges. In the case of Landor Street, this has happened repeatedly and has caused significant disruption to small business owners due to the resulting road closure impacting on trade…

“There must be an onus on drivers to ensure that their vehicles will fit under the bridge to ensure we avoid a repeat of this situation in future.”

Network Rail says that an average of five “entirely avoidable” bridge strikes occur each day across Britain, with taxpayers funding the consequences to the annual tune of £23 million.

It also cites research suggesting that 43 per cent of lorry drivers admit to not measuring their vehicles before heading out on the road, while 52 per cent admit to not taking low bridges into account.

To help tackle the problem, Network Rail has launched a ‘Lorries can’t limbo’ campaign aimed at professional HGV drivers and others who drive high-sided vehicles.

It includes online training and guidance in several languages to help drivers and logistics companies plan their routes to avoid bridge strikes. More information is available here.

At the Microlise Conference in May, poor signage was also identified as a key factor in bridge strikes.

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