Bridge strikes – where a vehicle crashes into a bridge that carries the railway or into a bridge over the railway – are a significant problem in the rail industry.
Strikes pose considerable safety risks to drivers, members of the public, as well as to the trains and travelling passengers.
Those driving the vehicles involved in bridge strikes face considerable harm and collisions can disrupt both roads and tracks. Wedged vehicles, especially those who have travelled at speed, can cause considerable damage to the body of vehicle and the impact can cause the bridge structure to collapse due to loss of suspension.
In 2011 Fenny Compton Bridge was severely damaged after a bridge was struck by a crane’s hoist on low loader. Bridge strikes often damage the bridge structure, which is not only dangerous for the trains, but can be costly for train operators.
Operators, such as Network Rail, have to undertake a bridge examination following the incident and then repair any damage. There also needs to be an inspection of the road infrastructure where the incident occurred and a repair of road surfacing or replacement of any damaged road signs dependent on the severity of the collision.
The operators also experience train delays, depending on the location and length of disruption, as well as experiencing increased insurance premiums. Following incidents operators receive direct compensation claims, legal fees and other associated costs.
The damage caused to metallic bridge decks due to bridge strikes includes buckles and tears to flanges, loss of rivets and bolts to flanges, holes in webs, gouges, torn or bent stiffeners and paint scrapes. Arch bridges are also affected by unexpected impact such as the loss of arch spandrel and parapet, loss of bricks to the arch rings, gouges in the arch barrel, displacement of the voússoir stone and cracks in the arch spandrel and parapet.
In order to address this issue Network Rail have worked with the Department for Transport and the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport to raise awareness of the problems with managers involved in road maintenance and road transport.
The rail operator has produced foreign language guides, which have been endorsed by the European Transport Safety Council, for drivers from other countries who are unfamiliar with the UK’s roads or are driving left-hand-drive vehicles.
A training course has also been created by Network Rail for the driver certificate of professional competence (CPC) with partners from the freight industry and construction plant hire sector.