‘This has to stop’ says Great Northern train operator as investigation reveals £750,000 bill from Baldock bridge strikes
PUBLISHED: 07:06 31 March 2016
A fresh bid is to be made to keep lorries away from a railway bridge where repeated truck strikes have run up a huge repair bill and caused regular misery for commuters.
North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald has tried in the past to get a restriction imposed on the A507 North Road because the narrow bridge near Baldock’s railway station is such a notorious accident spot.
Network Rail figures obtained by the Comet show the bridge is hit five times a year on average – the most recent was earlier this month – with the total repair and compensation costs between 2003 and 2015 totalling £750,000.
Sir Oliver told the Comet: “The bridge is regularly hit by lorries, and every time there are train delays and this is an irritation for passengers and a cost for passengers.
“I have in the past asked if the road could have a lorry restriction and I will contact Herts Highways on this.”
A single bridge strike in 2012 cost £129,409 to resolve. In 2010, the bride was hit 11 times – almost once a month – causing £69,781 worth of damage. And in October last year the bridge was struck twice by different lorries in less than four hours.
Roger Perkins – a spokesman for train operator Govia Thameslink Ltd, which runs the Great Northern line – said: “For the sake of our passengers, this has to stop.
“Trains can continue to run over some bridges at low speed if they are hit but at Baldock because of its construction, Network Rail signallers have to block the entire rail line until it has been inspected by a qualified engineer.”
The bridge carries signs displaying low bridge warnings and cautioning drivers that the clearance is 14ft 6ins.
Last time the bridge was hit, commuters took to Facebook to vent their frustrations.
Facebook user Louisa Felice commented: “New height barriers have just been put up on either side as a precaution.
“I’m glad no one was hurt but if you drive a truck you really should know how high it is. I work for a haulage company and it’s not really that difficult.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “When we get a report that a vehicle has been in contact with a bridge we have to stop the trains as a safety precaution until the damage can be assessed, and only once deemed safe can train begin running again.
“This can cause delays for passengers and costs the railway significant sums of money not just in bridge repairs, but in compensation.”