Sunday 24 January 2021

Network Rail reveals Britain’s ‘most-bashed bridges’

A bridge strike in the West Midlands

Network Rail has named the Watling Street bridge on the A5 in Hinckley, Leicestershire, as winner of the dubious accolade of Britain’s ‘most-bashed bridge’ – having being struck 25 times over the last year, amounting to around once a fortnight on average.

The rail infrastructure body has released data on 20 of the country’s most vulnerable bridges as it relaunches its ”Lorries Can’t Limbo’ awareness campaign, ahead of an expected annual spike in incidents due to increased activity resulting from the Black Friday and Christmas rush.

The campaign, which reminds HGV drivers to ‘Wise Up, Size Up’, is being rolled out to motorway service stations in a bid to remind drivers and operators of their obligations to prevent costly and dangerous bridge strikes.

The second most-struck bridge, the Bromford Road bridge in Dudley, West Midlands, saw the most rail passenger delays attributed to bridge strikes, with almost 72 hours of disruption.

There is some evidence that heightened awareness in recent years is having some impact, with an 11 per cent decrease in incidents in the year beginning April 2019. However, bridge strikes remain a dangerous and costly concern, Network Rail warns.

Its chair, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, 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.”

Senior traffic commissioner Richard Turfitt last month issued a letter to all HGV and PSV operator licence holders, warning that regulatory action that could result in O-licence loss is a real possibility should they fail to take appropriate measures to prevent bridge strikes.

As part of these measures, the letter says operators should assess risk, plan routes in advance so far as reasonably practicable, and ensure drivers, transport managers and planners are properly trained to allow them to assess the risks.

Drivers should also be provided with adequate information including about the vehicles being driven, as well as access to height conversion charts, the letter advised. Sites should have height measurement gauges, and each vehicle and trailer should have an established running height on its technical record. These figures should be available to anyone planning a route, including drivers negotiating unexpected or unmapped obstructions – for example, temporary works.

Hideo Takano, senior structures advisor at Highways England, said: “Bridges strikes can cause hours of disruption and although we reopen our roads as soon as possible, we recognise the frustration delays can cause.

“Around two-thirds of bridge strikes on our roads are caused by vehicles carrying a load. So, to reduce the risk of this happening we urge all drivers to follow these simple steps; know your height, plan your route and secure your load.”

Gareth Llewellyn, DVSA chief executive, added: “You should ensure your drivers are doing their walkaround checks and noting the height of their vehicle every day.

“While DVSA can fall back on regulatory action to deal with bridge strikes, I’d prefer to see no incidents at all, with operators and drivers checking heights before every journey.”

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