The Watling Street bridge on the A5 in Hinkley has been named the most-bashed railway bridge in Britain. Vehicles struck it 25 times in the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.
That’s according to research conducted by Network Rail. It found that the Bromford Road bridge in Dudley was the second most-struck bridge, leading to 72 hours of delays for rail passengers. Bridge strikes also cause disruption for motorists, as engineers are forced to embark on lengthy and costly repairs.
Most of the vehicles involved are Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and buses. On average, a bridge strike costs £13,000, which totals around £23 million a year for the UK taxpayer. In 2019, one single strike amounted to £1.8 million in train delay costs.
The release of information is timed to coincide with Black Friday and the Christmas shopping rush, when more large vehicles are expected to be on Britain’s roads. A Bridge Strike Prevention Group has been established to raise awareness of the problem and ensure companies and drivers have the knowledge required to avoid an accident.
‘Wise Up, Size Up’
Bridge strike incidents fell by 11 percent to 1,714 in the last financial year. However, Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail, says there is more to be done. “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, Network Rail will run a campaign reminding drivers to ‘Wise Up, Size Up’. Network Rail research shows that 43 percent of lorry drivers admit to not measuring their vehicle before taking to the road. And 52 percent admit to not taking low bridges into account.
Network Rail can now claim back the costs incurred by bridge strikes from hauliers. Until recently, the company had been paying for repairs and compensating train operators.
The top five most-hit railway bridges
In the past year, these have been Britain’s unluckiest railway bridges:
- Watling Street, A5, Hinkley: 25 strikes
- Bromford Road, Sandwell & Dudley: 24 strikes
- St Johns Street, Lichfield: 23 strikes
- Stuntney Road, A142, Ely: 19 strikes
- Abbey Farm, Thetford: 16 strikes