Network Rail has issued a stark reminder to HGV drivers after a bridge strike near Whitby resulted in the closure of both the rail and road networks, causing major disruption.
Just after lunchtime on Monday a skip wagon struck the rail-over-road bridge close to Castleton Moor station on the Middlesbrough to Whitby line. The bridge was struck with such force that it caused significant structural damage to steel girders, and dislodged the track.
Since Monday, trains have been suspended between Battersby and Whitby to allow detailed engineering assessments to take place. With assessments now complete, short-term repairs are being carried out to the bridge with Northern’s Middlesbrough to Whitby service expected to resume on Friday.
Until then, replacement road transport will operate in both directions between Middlesbrough and Whitby stopping as required beyond Lealholm, while Northern is operating a train service between Danby and Whitby.
Langburn’s Bank, where the bridge was hit, is expected to reopen to road traffic in the coming days, subject to readings from monitoring equipment placed on the bridge.
The steam locomotive 60163 Tornado, which had been at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for the past two weeks will now will be transported by road from Newbridge today (Wednesday), joining a rail connection to travel to Severn Valley Railway. Services on the North York Moors Railway are due to recommence as planned on Saturday March 24.
Bridge strikes cost the taxpayer millions of pounds every year in repairs and compensation for disrupted train journeys, as well as posing a very serious safety risk to the public. In October last year, Network Rail launched a campaign targeted at lorry drivers after research showed that 43% admitted to not knowing the size of their vehicle, and more than 50% said they didn’t take low bridges into account when planning their journeys.
Chris Gee, head of operations for Network Rail on the London North Eastern and East Midlands route, said: “Despite our targeted campaigns and warnings to professional drivers to check the height of the vehicles, bridge strikes like this still happen far too regularly. This is a particularly serious case which in different circumstances could have caused an extremely nasty incident. Since the bridge was struck our engineers have assessed the bridge and will now carry out short term repairs to allow the line to reopen to Northern’s passenger services on Friday. I thank both rail passengers and those in the local community who have been disrupted by this incident for their patience and understanding while we’ve had carried out the assessments and repairs.”
Chris added: “Bridge strikes are entirely preventable and we are working alongside other key transport industries to raise awareness of the problem and look at ways in which we can work together to reduce incidents.”
Mike Paterson, Northern’s regional director, said: “The incident has caused significant disruption for our customers between Middlesbrough and Whitby and I’d like to thank them for their patience during the past few days.
“I’ve been impressed by the swift and professional response by Network Rail and we have worked closely across the industry to provide the best possible service, including road replacement buses, for our customers. I’m pleased we will be able to return to normal running on Friday.”
Chris Price, general manager for North Yorkshire Moors Railway added: “The bridge strike has caused minimal disruption to the NYMR. We have unfortunately had to cancel our Battersby driver training courses planned to take part this week, which will now be rescheduled at a later date. This will not affect our daily services which begin from Saturday March 24 and we look forward to welcoming our passengers for the railways 2018 season.”
North Yorkshire County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for transport said: “Bridge strikes like this one cause huge amounts of damage and disruption to the travelling public, on the road and on the rails. Drivers of large vehicles, and their employers, must take care to plan their journeys around such structures and therefore avoid such incidents. North Yorkshire County Council is working closely with Network Rail to establish road links as quickly as possible.”