More than 1,800 bridges were hit in 2021/22, with the most bashed - Stonea Road Bridge in Cambridgeshire - struck 33 times. Bridge strikes cost the rail network operator almost US$14.25 million in delay and cancellation fees in 2021/22.

Network Rail has released a new animation urging lorry drivers to ‘Wise Up, Size Up’ by knowing the height of their vehicles and choosing suitable routes before they head out on journeys. The retro-inspired cartoon centres on three high-sided vehicles navigating a low bridge in increasingly wacky ways, from pole-vaulting over it, to tunnelling underneath it (below). The animation is designed to warn HGV drivers that life is not like the cartoons and to take a moment to think before taking a risk when approaching low bridges.

Network Rail cartoon showing a lorry tunnelling under a low bridge

The Stonea Road bridge on the B1098 was struck 33 times in the year ending March 2022, amounting to £10,526 in unnecessary train delay and cancellation costs. Others high on the list include Lower Downs Road in Wimbledon, South West London, and Harlaxton Road Bridge, Lincolnshire (below) - struck 18 and 17 times respectively.

Harlaxton Road Bridge with a lorry stuck underneath it

Network Rail said that it works with a number of railway industry partners to tackle bridge strikes, including Highways England, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and hauliers. While incidents have reduced in recent years, numbers have steadily started to creep up again - coinciding with an estimated increase in traffic volume on Britain’s roads.

Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail said: “Bridge bashers cause serious safety issues on the transport network for both road and rail users. Every incident can delay tens of thousands of passengers while we inspect the bridge and repair any damage – creating a huge cost from public funds.

“During this very busy time of year for deliveries, we urge operators and drivers to properly plan their routes, know the height of their vehicles and be vigilant for road signs showing the height of bridges. We will report those who don’t to the Traffic Commissioners, and they risk losing their licenses and livelihoods. Network Rail always looks to recover the entire repair and delay costs from the driver and the operator.”

As part of an ongoing initiative, Network Rail has a team of bridge strike ‘champions’ covering each route across Britain, who raise awareness of the issue by visiting haulage companies and lead in managing bridge strike risk locally.   

Most struck railway bridges in Britain 2021/22:

  • Stonea Road, Stonea, Cambridgeshire 33 strikes
  • Lower Down’s Road, Wimbledon, London 18 strikes
  • Harlaxton Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire 17 strikes
  • Abbey Farm, Thetford, Norfolk 15 strikes
  • Stuntney Road, Ely, Cambridgeshire 12 strikes
  • Harefield Road, Brakespeare Road South, West Ruislip, London 12 strikes
  • Station Road B4105, Berkswell, Solihull 12 strikes
  • Station Road, Langley, Berkshire12 strikes
  • St John’s Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire 11 strikes
  • Coddenham Road, Needham Market, Suffolk 10 strikes

Bridge strikes reported across the railway network in the last five financial years:

  • Year 2017/18 – 2,039 strikes
  • Year 2018/19 – 1,926 strikes
  • Year 2019/20 – 1,720 strikes
  • Year 2020/21 – 1,624 strikes
  • Year 2021/22 – 1,833 strikes