Bridge strikes: Raising awareness
Bridge strikes are an increasing problem for the rail industry and one which is not only costly, but also incredibly dangerous. Bridge strikes – which are caused when a vehicle crashes into a bridge – can lead to serious injury and in extreme cases, death. They are also steadily on the rise.
To date there has only been one strike-related derailment in the UK, which took place in Oyne Aberdeenshire in 1978 and injured seven people; however there have been a number of notable incidents over the years. When taking into account delays, disruption, repairs and injury, the true cost of bridge strikes is incalculable.
With bridge strikes being an ever-present problem, Network Rail has developed a joint response protocol with the police, to establish the best course of action in the event of a strike. This framework details each department’s role, so that consistency can be maintained and situations can be resolved as soon as possible.
Once a bridge has been struck by a vehicle, the structure must be completely checked to ensure that it is safe for trains to pass through; however, more often than not this will result in delays, diversions or cancellations. Of course not all bridge strikes result in injury, but the re-routing of services can result in considerable delays for the rail network – something which has a knock-on effect to the wider community.
In an effort to reduce bridge strikes – and keep the country moving forward – Network Rail continues to work with relevant industry experts such as the Department for Transport, the Association of Directors of Environment Economy and Planning and Transport, in order to raise awareness of the problem. This includes providing information to road maintenance and road transport managers, through the use of the four Es: education, engineering, enablement and enforcement.
Network Rail is also mindful that not all drivers in the UK live in the UK, so it has produced a foreign language guide, endorsed by the European Transport Safety Council, in order to provide foreign visitors with as much information as possible. Guides are available in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Bulgarian, Russian and English.
As well as raising awareness and the supply of guides, Network Rail has produced a training course – in conjunction with the construction plant hire sector and the freight industry – to provide drivers with the certificate of professional competence (CPC).
Bridge strikes will never be completely eradicated, but with the proper signage, regular safety inspections and road maintenance, the number of reported strikes each year can be reduced and in many cases, prevented. A quick response and the relevant knowledge is key to ensuring safety on the roads and rail network.
For further information about bridge strikes, including guides on strike prevention and the best ways to report a strike, please visit: www.networkrail.co.uk.