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More damage and disruption caused by ‘Bridge Strikes’


But is the solution right in front of our eyes?

So-called ‘bridge strikes’ continue to cost rail operators, passengers and road users significant time, money and inconvenience. Despite several failed attempts to stop the problem, the real answer has been in front of our eyes for over 30 years.

Recently, a painting company van’s roof was demolished when it hit a bridge in Derby. The painting company cited their driver’s “unfamiliarity with the area” as the reason for the incident.

Contrasting this with a similar occurrence, a double-decker bus recently hit a railway bridge in Emsworth, tearing its roof off in the process. This was not a roving bus in an unfamiliar town, but a local Emsworth and District bus; how such an incident occurred has not yet been explained by the company.

The link between these two occurrences is strong and simple: human error. If unchecked, human error leads to accidents even when they logically should have been avoided.

This is especially an issue for railway bridges due to the resulting network disruption; no trains can travel over a hit bridge until it has been inspected to ensure its safety. There is a knock-on effect of diversions, cancellations and delays that can ripple throughout the system. Even in cases where the railway bridge is found to be safe, bridge strikes can cost dearly for taxpayer and commuter alike.

Bridge strikes will continue to happen unless an effective solution is widely implemented, one that is fool-proof and delivers immediate results. That solution already exists, and Coeval has been using it for over 30 years.

We know what doesn’t work

Back in October 2017, Network Rail launched a campaign entitled ‘Check it, don’t chance it’, emphasising the importance of lorry drivers’ awareness of the height of their vehicles. As the bridge strikes continue to pile up, the campaign can only be considered ineffective. Attempting to change driver behaviour hasn’t worked, and will continue to come second place to adequate, real-time hazard warning.

It’s time for an alternative form of bridge protection to come to the fore.

Overheight Vehicle Detection Technology

An Overheight Vehicle Detection System monitors all vehicles that are heading towards low bridges via laser sensors on either side of the road. If the vehicle is too tall, the system illuminates a high-intensity road sign that stops or diverts the driver. It doesn’t rely on attempting to change driver behaviour industry-wide. It stops collisions before they happen.

Coeval has been protecting bridges with this system for decades now, with extremely effective results. Of the recent bridge strike incidents, Managing Director of Coeval, Gary Higgins, said this:

“’I remain amazed that the expense and disruption caused by bridge strikes are not avoided by the simple installation of a relatively cheap Overhead Vehicle Detection System that have been available in the UK market for more than 30 years.”


More information on Coeval’s Overheight Vehicle Detection System is available here. Investing in an effective solution that finally brings this problem to an end is surely in the interests of all concerned.


Gary Higgins, Managing Director, Coeval


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