Warning to drivers as height restriction reduced on Oldbury bridge

Drivers of large vehicles are being warned about a change to the height restriction on a railway bridge between Oldbury and West Bromwich.

The bridge on the A4034 Bromford Road, near to Sandwell and Dudley train station, will have its height restriction reduced to 4 metres from 1 December 2020.

The Traffic Regulation Order setting the new height limit will reduce the number of tall vehicles that attempt to drive underneath the bridge and end up hitting and damaging it.

The bridge, which carries the West Coast mainline linking London and Scotland,  is one of the most often hit by vehicles in the UK – with 57 incidents since 2017. The bridge was hit 24 times in the year to March 2020 – the second highest number of incidents in Britain.

Each bridge strike means the road and rail line have to be closed while safety checks are done to ensure the rail line has not been damaged.

Haulage companies and other users of large vehicles are being warned that they must not drive under the bridge if their vehicle is taller than four metres and they should find another route.

New signage will be installed on the bridge and its approaches warning drivers of the change.

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for sustainable transport Councillor Jackie Taylor said: “We are hoping that by reducing the height limit, this will reduce the number of tall vehicles that attempt to drive underneath the bridge without the extra clearance needed to allow for the dip in the road.

“The issue we have is that very tall, very long vehicles can end up hitting the bridge as they travel into the dip under the bridge and up the slope on the other side. The front of the vehicle rises out of the dip before the back of the vehicle has reached the low point

“So drivers in large vehicles who think they will fit underneath the bridge under the current height restriction still end up hitting it.

“A serious bridge strike could seriously damage the bridge – as well as the potential for causing an accident that could lead to a driver or road users being injured.

“We don’t want to see this happen, so we’re doing everything we can to avoid this.”

Sandwell Council’s Deputy Leader Councillor Maria Crompton added: “Bridge strikes also cause congestion while the safety of the bridge is checked – causing delays to trains, train passengers and road users.

“Drivers of lorries and other large vehicles, and also local companies, need to make sure they amend their routes to avoid the bridge if their vehicles are taller than four metres.”

Martin Colmey, director of operations for Network Rail’s Central route, said: “This railway bridge on Bromford Road has been hit by high vehicles 24 times in the last year causing a total of 72 hours of delays to passengers. It makes it the second most struck railway bridge in the country.

“We welcome these new measures as there really is no excuse for drivers to be damaging our infrastructure. All of our bridges are very clearly marked to show what the clearance is – to hit one with all this information available is unprofessional and negligent.

“Bridge strikes result in unnecessary delay and disruption to the road and rail networks and cost to the taxpayer. We take this issue very seriously and wherever possible we will seek to reclaim costs from the driver or company responsible.”

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