Thousands of rail passengers in the Thames Valley will suffer hours of delays and cancellations in the next month as ‘bridge-strikes’ – when a lorry that’s too big hits a low bridge – reach their peak, with new figures revealing that at this time of year there are more incidents than any other time of year.
In the Thames Valley, there have been 19 bridge strikes in the last 6 months, contributing to a £23m cost to the taxpayer in damages, as well as delays of two hours per strike on average for rail passengers.
Research suggests there could be more bridge strikes in the region in the next month and this could be owing to the hour change and increased deliveries ahead of Christmas.
The new data and significant impact on the railway that bridge strikes have has led to Network Rail launching a new ‘bridge bash’ campaign aimed at HGV drivers and haulage companies.
Network Rail’s campaign has eye catching straplines such as ‘What the truck’ and ‘Lorries can’t limbo’ and involves:-
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.
Network Rail has been working across the industry, getting key players on board and banging the drum about the issue to stop strikes before they happen. The rail infrastructure company has already started to raise awareness of the issue by visiting logistics companies, as well as working with trade bodies such as the Road Haulage Association (RHA) to get the issue on the map.
Kevin Laidlaw, Senior Asset Engineer, from Network Rail said: “Bridge strikes are a huge burden on the rail and road systems, as well as on the taxpayer, so we are working with key influencers in the industry to reduce the number of these easily-avoidable incidents as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.
“There have been numerous bridge strike incidents in the Thames Valley recently, causing inconvenience to thousands of people travelling in the region and beyond.
“We need HGV drivers travelling through the region and their employers to get on board with our initiative and make bridge strikes a thing of the past.”