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Trucking Industry UK

Lorry drivers face roads ban for hitting railway bridges

The UK's HGV market accelerates 12.9% in 2021 to defy supply challenge, says SMMT.

Lorry drivers who hit railway bridges in the UK could be banned from the roads after a call from Network Rail.

The firm that manages the country’s bridge infrastructure says it will now report crashes to the Traffic Commissioners as they face a repair bill of £23 million a year.

As a result, HGV drivers could be made to cover repair costs and have their driving licence revoked.

Network Rail adds that it is increasingly concerned about rail service disruptions and says the crashes are avoidable.

They point to satnavs for leading lorry drivers under low bridges.

Little sympathy for lorry drivers

The railway bosses say they have little sympathy for lorry drivers and say it’s their responsibility for knowing how tall their HGV is.

In the year to March, lorry drivers struck 1,624 bridges – that is a strike rate of more than five per day and comes after a drop-off in traffic numbers because of the pandemic lockdown.

Sir Peter Hendy, the chief executive of Network Rail, told The Times: “A lorry or bus hitting a railway bridge isn’t an accident. 

“It’s a failure of professional operators and drivers to properly plan their routes and know the height of their vehicles and can cause fatalities and serious injuries for road users, delays for both road and rail travellers, and could cause a catastrophic railway accident.

“Network Rail looks to recover the entire cost of such incidents from operators and drivers, and also reports all of them to the Traffic Commissioners for consideration of enforcement and licence revocation. “

Specialised satnavs available

Rod McKenzie is the director of policy and public affairs with the Road Haulage Association, and he says that there are specialised satnavs available that enable drivers to program the height of the truck into it so they can avoid striking bridges.

Complaints from Network Rail follow a week when train services to and from Cornwall saw severe disruption for two days and travellers were urged not to head to the West Country after a Tesco driver managed to wedge his lorry under a bridge.

The refrigerated truck was stuck for 24 hours, and then structural engineers had to work to make the bridge safe.

One train company, Great Western Railways (GWR) saw its services being affected when two bridges were struck in two days last week.

Travel plans ruined by ‘careless driving’

That led to a restricted service and Network Rail’s western route director, Mike Gallop, said: “This is happening far too often where thousands of passengers have their plans ruined by careless driving.

“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.

“Those delays are compounded by the huge bill which is often picked up by the taxpayer.”

The most expensive incident involving a bridge being hit by a lorry occurred on January 13 in Haymarket, Edinburgh, that left a repair bill of nearly £156,000.

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