MP wants to keep rail bridge off list of UK's ‘most bashed’
- Credit: Steve Barclay
A rail bridge that only slipped in the ratings of Britain’s ‘most bashed’ because it closed for a year, remains a danger, says MP Steve Barclay.
The NE Cambs MP has put forward two improvement suggestions for Stonea Bridge to Cambridgeshire County Council.
“We desperately need a permanent solution otherwise accidents will continue to happen,” he said.
“I am grateful that the council has agreed to look into the two options suggested by myself and Councillor John Gowing to combat the repeated accidents,”
He said both options will be assessed for suitability and cost in conjunction with Network Rail.
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Their first suggestion, he said, was to put height restriction barriers either side of the bridge to make drivers more aware of the height.
Alternatively, he said, the layout of the road needs to be changed.
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“Local residents know the bridge has been struck repeatedly over many years and recently the road was closed for more than a year,” he said.
His constituents have piled into the MP’s Facebook page with their own suggestions.
One told him: “Just fill in the underpass and save the taxpayer endless repair costs.
“People clearly have no common sense so make them wait at the crossing.”
Another said that as someone who lives nearby “we've seen a crazy number of accidents.
“For anyone who needs to walk or cycle under it, it's not a pleasant experience, with the stupid speeds that some people drive at under there.”
One other constituent said: “It's a miracle that nobody has been killed with the number of accidents there have been, and the seriousness of some of them.
“I agree though that the over crossing could be improved. The long waits often for no apparent reason are crazy”.
But one other felt that “people are risking it because of the crossing”.
The answer, they told the MP, would be automatic barriers “because you’ll only be held up at least a minute or two whereas now it’s ridiculous.
“ I’ve sat at that crossing for 30 minutes for two trains to go by and the amount of traffic it holds up as well; I can see why people chance it.”
In October 2019, a vehicle hit the bridge on the Ely-Peterborough rail line, which was just over 2m (7ft) in height at the time, the thirteenth time it had been hit that year.
The bridge only re-opened in February, 2021.
The bash caused significant damage which meant the road underneath had to be closed.
Cambridgeshire County Council has updated the signage with its new height of 2 metres – 10cm lower than before, owing to the new protection beam.
Network Rail says that “while the new bridge is stronger, motorists are urged to check the height of their vehicle to avoid any further strikes”.
Stonea bridge was the second most-hit bridge in the country in 2018 and slipped to ninth place last year, only because the road was closed.
On average, there are five bridge strikes per day and most of the vehicles that hit railway bridges are Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and buses, at a cost of around £13,000 per strike –costing the UK taxpayer around £23m in a year.
The most recent repairs involved removing the damaged cast iron beam and timber walkway at track level.
The lengthy process of installing a new protection beam then began.
The new impact protection beam is designed to withstand future bridge strikes and includes the visible signage to warn motorists of the bridge’s height restriction.
Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “We have carried out extensive works to make the bridge stronger, but this doesn’t mean that drivers can be complacent.
“Motorists should do their bit too and wise up, size up.”
Cllr Gowing, member for March South and Rural at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “I’d urge drivers of larger vehicles who use the route to be aware of the bridge, read the signs and check the size of your vehicle.”