Lorry drivers urged ‘check it, don’t chance it’ as Network Rail reveals railway bridge bashes in the South East cost £7.5m each year: Thurlow Park Railway Bridge

Thursday 26 Oct 2017

Lorry drivers urged ‘check it, don’t chance it’ as Network Rail reveals railway bridge bashes in the South East cost £7.5m each year

South East

Drivers of lorries and buses who take a chance driving under railway bridges without knowing the height of their vehicles are being targeted by a new campaign after figures revealed the true cost of ‘bridge bashes’ in the south east.

Nine of the top fifty most bashed bridges in Britain are in the south east, including Thurlow Park Bridge over the A205 south circular in London which has been hit 94 times since 2009 - making it the third most bashed bridge in Britain over that period - causing the equivalent of 400 hours of delays to Southern and Thameslink passengers. St Mildred’s Road bridge in Hither Green was struck 26 times last year alone and just yesterday (Wednesday) there were three separate incidents in the region, including a lorry getting stuck under a railway bridge in Bexley High Street which caused delays to Southeastern passengers while engineers assessed the damage and made sure it was safe for trains to pass over. The financial cost of bridge bashes in the south east to Network Rail, train operators, local highways authorities and haulage companies totalled £7.5m last year.

A recent Network Rail survey showed that over 40 per cent (43%) of lorry drivers admit to not measuring their vehicle before heading out on the road and over half (52%) admit to not taking low bridges into account when planning their routes. As a result, Network Rail and Transport for London (TfL) are calling on haulage companies and drivers of high vehicles to check their height and plan their routes, to help reduce these numbers and keep rail passengers moving.

The end of this month traditionally sees a peak in the number of bridge strikes, rising to almost 10 per day. Research suggests this could be due to the hour change and increased deliveries ahead of Christmas. Figures show most bridge strikes happen between 10am and 11am, but remain high all day until around 6pm in the evening and can cause hours of disruption to road and rail users.

Given the impact that bridge strikes have on the rail network across Britain, Network Rail has decided to tackle the problem head on by:

  • Engaging the haulage and public transport industries
  • Fitting steel beams on rail bridges where there are a large number of strikes to reduce the impact, resulting in less damage to infrastructure
  • Working with local authorities to ensure road signs displaying bridge heights are correct and up to date
  • Calling for stricter enforcement of penalties for drivers when strikes do happen. 

At Thurlow Park Bridge in Tulse Hill, Network Rail has installed a new system which detects vehicles that are too high and sets off electronic warning signs. This and other measures have seen the number of bridge bashes incidents cut from 22 in 2015/16 to just three so far this year.

Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail, said: “We know that most drivers are complete professionals and take safety on the road very seriously. However we know there are also some areas where we could be better across the industry to stop strikes happening and give drivers and logistics companies the tools they need to help tackle the problem more effectively.

“Bridge strikes impact the whole transport network and by working together we can provide the right training and education for logistics companies to help them support their drivers, ensure that those who do break the rules are penalised, and that we can lower the impact of strikes to the travelling public when they do happen. We hope the whole industry will get behind this campaign and do everything possible to stop bridge strikes.”

To find out more about bridge strikes and how you can report a bridge strike please visit networkrail.co.uk/check-it/


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Network Rail press office - Carl Ferguson
Media and Communications Executive
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