Campaign launched to reduce bridge strikes which cause delays for rail passengers in West Country

Thousands of rail passengers in the West Country 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 West Country, there have been 16 bridge strikes in the last 6 months (seven in Somerset, six in Cornwall and three in Devon), contributing to a £23m cost to the taxpayer in damages and delays with each incident causing a two-hour delay on average.

Research suggests there could be more bridge strikes in the region in the next month, which 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 liaising with logistics companies and working with trade bodies such as the Road Haulage Association (RHA) with the aim of drastically reducing these incidents.

Following months of research into why strikes happen, the campaign will be launched to all key players in the haulage industry calling on them to challenge their drivers to ‘check it, rather than chance it’ running until April next year.

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.

“The West Country has seen a considerable number of bridge strikes in the last 6 months causing inconvenience to thousands of people travelling in the region and beyond.   

“We need HGV drivers travelling through the West Country and their employers to get on board with our initiative and make bridge strikes a thing of the past.”


Notes to editors

Research has found:

  • 43 per cent of lorry drivers admit to not knowing the size of their vehicle
  • 52 per cent of drivers admit to not taking low bridges into account when planning their journeys
  • Five bridge strikes happen across the country everyday – with a peak of 10/day in October
  • On average, each bridge strike costs £13,500 and causes two hours of delays to train services

The Great Western route runs through West London, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.  

Figures as of October 2017.