What part of 'LOW BRIDGE' do truck drivers not understand?


05 May 2018: Immediate 

  • Over-height truck load ‘bridge strike’ closed Station Road on 1 May 

  • Strike is 14th since 2014 bridge overhaul - one every three months

  • Over £72,000 spent on collision repairs since 2014

  • “Utterly frustrating and infuriating” says GWSR bridge engineer

  • Railway calls for stronger action against offenders


“Frustrating and infuriating” is a term that the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) bridge engineer, John Balderstone, used following the latest (on 1st May) in a spate trucks with over-height loads striking the railway’s newly-restored bridge over the B4632 Station Road / Evesham Road, Broadway.


The volunteer-run run GWSR opened its Broadway station on Good Friday, 30th March since when passenger numbers on the popular Cotswolds heritage line, which now links Broadway with Cheltenham, have almost doubled.  But that success is being put at risk by thoughtless truck drivers carrying over-sized loads striking the 4.4m (14ft 3in) high span, which carries the line over the road just outside the station. 


Since the 115-year-old bridge was substantially repaired at a cost of nearly £250,000m in 2014, following a successful share offer to fund the overhaul of five bridges between Laverton and Broadway, there have been at least 14 known collisions with the structure from over-height vehicles - on average, one every three months.


This has necessitated further substantial repairs, firstly in September 2016 costing about £16,000.  Then a series of further bridge strikes, including a severe one that required repairs costing in excess of £56,000 and closure of the road, in January this year - a total of over £72,000.  


Since then the bridge has been struck a further four times, the latest on 1st May, when a flatbed truck carrying machinery struck the bridge at speed, leading to the load falling off the truck after it hit the bridge.  The road was closed for several hours to recover the severely damaged equipment from the road.  The driver admitted to railway officials and the police that he did not know the height of his load.


“These bridge strikes pose a serious threat not only to the railway, but to other road users,” commented John Balderstone.  “Every time there is a collision, it necessitates a close inspection of the bridge, delaying train services, to ensure that it is safe for trains to cross.


“In this case there was limited damage to the bridge, but it will need repair.  However the equipment on the lorry appears to have been destroyed as was swept off the truck and struck the road, damaging the road surface and scattering debris over a wide area.  


“I hate to think of the consequences had a car or bus been following that vehicle.”


Last Year, Network Rail launched a campaign to raise awareness of the high economic cost of bridge strikes*.  During 12 months ending October 2017, the national network suffered an average of five bridge strikes per day: 2,000 over the year costing around £23 million and that excludes heritage railway and non-rail bridges.  


A survey of truck drivers astonishingly revealed that 43% of drivers did not know the height of their load - as they are legally obliged to do - while more than half (52%) did not take into account low bridges when planning their route.


Says John Balderstone: "It is so utterly frustrating, time-consuming and infuriating that there can be so many lorries being driven around with high loads and yet the drivers don’t bother to take note of the height.  


"We have now spent over £72,000 - fortunately paid for by truck drivers’ insurers - repairing a newly restored and attractive structure.  And despite large ‘LOW BRIDGE’ signs and several advance warnings, drivers seem to be oblivious to the danger ahead of them until it’s too late.”


The GWSR is seeking prosecution of offending drivers as well as repair costs from vehicle operators.  But to provide long-term protection it is now planning to instal substantial concrete-filled hollow steel impact beams over the road on either side of the bridge which is expected to cost around £90,000.  


“That’s money we could and should spend on developing facilities for our growing number or visitors or completing Broadway station sooner, rather than later.  


“It won't stop irresponsible and careless truck drivers from destroying their vehicles or loads but it will at least protect the bridge and reduce the risk that the railway has to be closed, so soon after reopening, for yet further bridge repairs,” John Balderstone adds.  The railway hopes to install the beams before the end of this year.


At the same time the GWSR is calling for stronger penalties to be imposed on offending truck drivers.  John Balderstone points out: “Police often don’t pursue a prosecution so, if they don’t, we will.  At a minimum surely a careless or dangerous driving offence should be imposed given the potential for disaster.  This is becoming an increasingly serious problem not just for us but for the national railway network and other heritage railways.  I would welcome more severe penalties not just for drivers but for the operating companies as well.  


"The seriousness of this issue must be driven home before someone gets killed."


Ends / more




* Network Rail launched its ‘Check it - don’t chance it’ bridge strike campaign last year: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/feeds/oversized-lorries-hit-rail-bridges-five-times-day-causing-misery-hundreds-thousands-reveals-new-campaign/ 


Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or ian.crowder@gwsr.com 



The GWSR is a heritage railway operating trains hauled by steam and heritage diesel locomotives and multiple-units, over part of the former Great Western Railway route between Stratford upon Avon and Cheltenham. It opened throughout in 1906 with several stations on its route via Honeybourne, Broadway and Toddington.  Most of the intermediate stations closed in March 1960.  The last scheduled (non-stop) passenger services over the line ceased in 1968 after which it was used by freight and occasional passenger trains diverted from the surviving former Midland line  between the West Midlands, Cheltenham and Bristol.  The line was closed in 1976 following the derailment of a freight train at Winchcombe in 1976 and the track and infrastructure removed by the end of 1979.  The GWSR took up residence in the derelict station yard at Toddington in 1981 and ran its first train over a short stretch of track at Toddington, in 1984.  By 2003 the railway had reached Cheltenham Racecourse.  It has now reached Broadway providing a round trip of over 28 miles, making it one of the top five heritage railways, in terms of length, in the UK.  Last year the railway carried over 100,000 passengers for the second year running, its all-time record. The railway has since opening of Broadway station on Good Friday, 30 March, seen a substantial increase in passenger numbers. https://www.gwsr.com 




Contact Ian Crowder for a high resolution images

Picture 1 - the warning couldn’t be clearer! (Ian Crowder / GWSR)

Picture 2 - The green truck leaves its blue load of machinery on the road after hitting the bridge on 01 May

Picture 3 - Broadway bridge bears the 94-ton weight of Merchant Navy class locomotive no. 35006 - before the repairs to the bridge in January, the weight restriction was 12 tons

Picture 4 - Looking from the Evesham direction the LOW BRIDGE sign is visible for some distance along the straight road.  Manor class no. 7820 Dinmore manor crosses the bridge