Steam railway’s frustration at 14 bridge strikes since 2014

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway bridge hit for 14th time in 3 years
Credit: GWSR
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The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway opened its extension back to Broadway on Good Friday 2018 and since then has been a hit with passengers.

This success is being hampered by thoughtless truck drivers who are taking their oversized trucks under the B4632 bridge near Broadway and striking the newly restored bridge.

“Frustrating and infuriating” is the words being used by the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) bridge engineer, John Balderstone, following on from the latest bridge strike on May 1st.

The 115-year-old bridge was repaired at a cost of nearly £250,000 in 2014. This was made possible following on from a successful share offer. The offer was to fund the overhaul of all bridges between Laverton and Broadway. Since then, there have been at least 14 known collisions with the bridge. On average, that equates to one every three months.

Further repairs have had to take place. Firstly, the railway repaired the bridge in September 2016 at a cost of £16,000. Then a further series of bridge strikes, including a severe one that saw repair costs of around £56,000 and the closure of the road in January this year, totalled over £72,000.

Since then, the bridge has been struck a further 4 times with the latest one on May 1st, 2018. The flatbed lorry carrying machinery struck the bridge a speed, causing the load to fall off after hitting the bridge. The road was closed for many hours whilst the damaged equipment was recovered and taken away. The driver since admitted to railway officials and the police that he did not know the height of his vehicle.

The GWSR is now seeking prosecution of the offending drivers as well as repair costs from vehicle operators.

The railway is now looking to install concrete-filled steel beams over the road on each side of the bridge. This is expected to cost around £90,000.

At the same time, the GWSR is calling for stronger penalties to be imposed on offending truck drivers.

What did the officials say?

John Balderstone commented

“These bridge strikes pose a serious threat not only to the railway but to other road users. Every time there is a collision, it necessitates a close inspection of the bridge, delaying train services, to ensure that it is safe for trains to cross.

“In this case, there was limited damage to the bridge, but it will need repair.  However, the equipment on the lorry appears to have been destroyed as was swept off the truck and struck the road, damaging the road surface and scattering debris over a wide area.

“I hate to think of the consequences had a car or bus been following that vehicle.”

Says John Balderstone: “It is so utterly frustrating, time-consuming and infuriating that there can be so many lorries being driven around with high loads and yet the drivers don’t bother to take note of the height.

“We have now spent over £72,000 – fortunately paid for by truck drivers’ insurers – repairing a newly restored and attractive structure.  And despite large ‘LOW BRIDGE’ signs and several advance warnings, drivers seem to be oblivious to the danger ahead of them until it’s too late.”

 

“That’s money we could and should spend on developing facilities for our growing number or visitors or completing Broadway station sooner, rather than later.

“Police often don’t pursue a prosecution so, if they don’t, we will.  At a minimum surely a careless or dangerous driving offence should be imposed given the potential for disaster.  This is becoming an increasingly serious problem not just for us but for the national railway network and other heritage railways.  I would welcome more severe penalties not just for drivers but for the operating companies as well.

“It won’t stop irresponsible and careless truck drivers from destroying their vehicles or loads but it will at least protect the bridge and reduce the risk that the railway has to be closed, so soon after reopening, for yet further bridge repairs,” John Balderstone adds.  The railway hopes to install the beams before the end of this year.

“The seriousness of this issue must be driven home before someone gets killed.”

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Michael Holden avatar
I have had an interest in Railways for as long as I can remember. I am a member of a number of heritage railways and actively volunteer at 2 of them. I enjoy all types of railways, real life, model and simulations. I started RailAdvent in 2014 and am the main editor of the site.
  • On the A5 at Hinckley, British Rail built dummy decking, on the Leicester to Birmingham line, these protect the bridge, so if a high vehicle hits it, the railway decking is unaffected, trains can continue to run normally. However if it does happen, the A5 gets closed for hours, while the wreckage of the smashed truck is cleared.