Network Rail is appealing to drivers of heavy goods vehicles to take more care around low bridges. Thurlow Park Road in Tulse Hill, London was the most hit bridge in the last year with 14 strikes, causing unnecessary delays and safety risks for rail passengers, motorists and locals.

On an average day, the drivers of at least five heavy goods vehicles and / or buses, put themselves, road users and the public travelling on the trains at risk. Research by Network Rail has found that 32% of drivers admitted to setting off whilst not being aware of the height of their vehicle with 56% not considering low bridges when planning their journey.

Bridge strike incidents can cause death or serious injury to road and rail users and have a serious impact on the operation of the railway, and road traffic.

Shaun King, Sussex route director for Network Rail, said: “We work closely with highways authorities to make sure our low bridges have good signage and drivers are aware when they may be in danger of hitting them.

“Despite that, we continue to see passengers delayed by high vehicles striking our bridges. With a railway network as busy and complex as ours, knock-on delays can spread very quickly.

“I urge hauliers and drivers to please be more careful.”

Network Rail has worked with industry bodies – including Highways England and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)- and hauliers for a number of years, leading a Bridge Strike Prevention Group to ensure companies and their employees are provided with the knowledge and tools they need to avoid striking bridges.

Hideo Takano, senior structures advisor at Highways England said:

“Although bridge strikes are comparatively low for our roads, as part of the collective drive to reduce bridge strikes happening we work with other transport authorities as part of the Bridge Strike Prevention Group and welcome Network Rail’s new campaign.

“Bridges strikes can cause hours of disruption and although we re-open our roads as soon as possible, we recognise the frustration delays can cause.

“Around two-thirds of bridge strikes on our roads are caused by vehicles carrying a load. So, to reduce the risk of this happening, we urge all drivers to follow these simple steps; know your height, plan your route and secure your load.”

Not all low railway bridges need the railway to be closed when they are hit and Network Rail grades the bridges according to their construction and their ability to withstand impacts. Some bridges are vulnerable to strikes and are protected with steel beams to reduce impact. These are also inspected by a qualified bridge inspector before trains are allowed to run at full speed over them.

To try and combat the number of bridge strikes, adverts are being placed at motorway service station petrol pumps across the country reminding drivers to “Wise Up, Size Up” as “Lorries Can’t Limbo” and drivers should know their vehicle height before they start their journey and to check their route for low bridges.