The Watling Street bridge on the A5 in Hinckley, Leicestershire, has been revealed as the most-bashed bridge in Britain by Network Rail.
On average, the bridge has been struck once a fortnight during the past year, with the new figures showing that railway bridges are struck five times every day on average across Britain.
The second most-struck bridge, the Bromford Road bridge in Dudley, West Midlands, saw the most rail passenger delays attributed to bridge strikes with a staggering 4,300 minutes – almost 72 hours – of disruption from 24 bridge strikes.
The problem is nationwide with bridges in Norfolk, Scotland, Middlesex, Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire, Staffordshire, Hertfordshire, London, Somerset, West Midlands and Lancashire all making the 20 most-struck list.
Network Rail has worked with industry bodies, including Highways England, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and hauliers, for several years. A Bridge Strike Prevention Group ensures companies and their employees are provided with the knowledge and tools they need to avoid striking bridges.
It has reaped some rewards as Network Rail data also shows that there was an 11% decrease in incidents from April 2019 to March this year, but it is again rolling out its ‘Lorries Can’t Limbo’ campaign to motorway service stations, reminding fleets to ‘Wise Up, Size Up’ before starting their journeys
Sir Peter Hendy, 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.
“Throughout this period, 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.”
A letter was issued by senior traffic commissioner Richard Turfitt last month to all goods vehicle and Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operator licence holders, warning that regulatory action which could result in the loss of their operator’s licence is a real possibility should they fail to take appropriate control measures to prevent bridge strikes.
The letter states as part of these control measures 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.
Hideo Takano, senior structures advisor at Highways England said: “Although bridge strikes are comparatively low for our roads, as part of the collective drive to reduce bridge strikes happening we work with other transport authorities as part of the Bridge Strike Prevention Group and welcome Network Rail’s new campaign.
“Bridges strikes can cause hours of disruption and although we re-open our roads as soon as possible we recognise the frustration delays can cause.”
Around two-thirds of bridge strikes on Highways England roads are caused by vehicles carrying a load.
Gareth Llewellyn, DVSA chief executive says it is important that the momentum is kept up to avoid these “dangerous and costly incidents”.
“You should ensure your drivers are doing their walkaround checks and noting the height of their vehicle every day,” he said.
“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.”
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