Thousands of rail passengers in Wiltshire 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 Wiltshire, there have been 14 bridge strikes in the last six months- the highest number of any county on the Great Western route, which runs through West London, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall – contributing to a £23m cost to the taxpayer in damages and delays with each incident causing a two-hour delay on average.
The most-struck bridge in the county is the underbridge on Malmesbury Road in Hullavington, which has been struck on five occasions since April 2017.
Research suggests there could be more bridge strikes in Wiltshire 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 for 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.
“Wiltshire has had more bridge strikes so far this year than any other county on the Western route, causing inconvenience to thousands of people travelling in the region and beyond.
“We need HGV drivers travelling through Wiltshire and their employers to get on board with our initiative and make bridge strikes a thing of the past.”