First, a bridge over the South Circular in Tulse Hill was hit on Thursday night (March 3), leading to delays to Thameslink passengers. Then on Friday morning, Grosvenor Road Bridge near Victoria was hit by a heavy goods vehicle, leading to delays to Southern and Gatwick Express passengers, and a bridge near Orpington station was struck, bringing delays to Southeastern passengers.
Network Rail’s route managing director, Alasdair Coates, said: “We work closely with highways authorities to make sure our low bridges have good signage and drivers are aware when they may be in danger of hitting them.
“Despite that, we continue to see passengers delayed by high vehicles striking our bridges. With a railway network as busy and complex as ours in the South East, knock-on delays can spread very quickly and far from the site of the original incident.
“I urge hauliers and drivers to please be more careful.”
The situation is so serious at Tulse Hill that Network Rail has now assigned response staff to monitor the bridge on location at peak times every week. It has also installed a large steel protection beam, along with more signage - including a large banner - and also CCTV.
Dyan Crowther, chief operating officer at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “Lorries are hitting railway bridges with sickening regularity, causing disruption to thousands of passengers every time.
“The low bridge on the South Circular in Tulse Hill alone was hit by lorries four times in September and has since been struck twice every month, causing 147 cancellations and delaying trains by over 73 hours in total. For the sake of our passengers, this has to stop.”
Southeastern trains were delayed by a bridge strike in Orpington this morning (Friday) and they also suffer occasional delays from notable low bridges near Dover, Strood and in Chestfield, Kent.
A Southeastern spokesperson said: “When bridge strikes happen we have to delay and often cancel trains while repair work is taking place and throughout the day to allow delayed services to get back on track.
“This impacts our train crew who often find themselves displaced as a result, and unfairly causes major disruption to our passengers.”
Not all low railway bridges need the railway to be closed when they are hit and Network Rail grades the bridges according to their construction and their ability to withstand impacts.
Some bridges are vulnerable to strikes and are protected with steel beams to reduce impact.
These are also inspected by a qualified bridge inspector before trains are allowed to run at full speed over them.
For statistics and more on bridge strikes, go to http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/3563.aspx
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