Last reviewed 17 September 2021

A Tesco lorry recently caused huge damage to a railway bridge in Plymouth, forcing the railway line that connects Cornwall and Plymouth with the rest of the country to close and causing misery for thousands of travellers.

The truck was wedged in place for more than 24 hours before structural engineers made the bridge safe. Disruption to train services using the railway tracks above continued for most of the week with repairs taking place.

Network Rail has highlighted that there are approximately five railway bridges hit by lorries every day, delaying thousands of passengers across the country. The annual bill for this careless driving comes to around £20 million.

Stressing that it was happening far too often, Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Western route director, said: “We are urging all lorry drivers and haulage companies to take better care, look out for the height warnings on all of our bridges and take a second to think before taking a risk and causing disruption to so many people’s lives.”

Network Rail works with a number of railway industry partners to tackle bridge strikes, including Highways England, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and hauliers themselves. Its 4Es initiative - education, engineering, enablement and enforcement - aims to ensure that haulage companies and their drivers are provided with the knowledge and tools they need to avoid striking bridges.

As part of this ongoing initiative, Network Rail has a team of bridge strike “champions” covering each route across Britain, who raise awareness of the issue by visiting haulage companies and help to manage bridge strike risk locally.

Drivers and operators are well advised to check the Government guidance as network Rail has warned that it will look to recover the entire cost of such accidents from those responsible. It also sends details to the Traffic Commissioners for them to consider suitable enforcement including possible licence revocation.

For further guidance on preventing these accidents see our feature – here.