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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

What our clients say

Connect Plus Services M25 Dartford Crossing

‘Even a short closure of the tunnel causes great congestion in the area, and if an over height vehicle were to cause that level of damage, the tunnel could be closed for hours, if not days, which would bring the whole of the South East of England to a standstill.

When the Coeval over height vehicle detectors were first installed, we were talking about 10’s of vehicles a day that we were stopping; we are now down to low single figures, 4 or 5 vehicles a day we need to extract for being over height, so it’s a great improvement in efficiency through the crossing.’

Platinum Electrical Ltd

‘Having used Coeval for the first time, we found them to be friendly and really helpful in ensuring we received the correct item we required. We were happy with the extremely quick response times and professional service they offer. We would definitely recommend their services to others.’

Gloucestershire Airport

‘Thank you for your prompt and efficient service regarding our request for training on the 21st of August. You guys have been incredibly helpful over this.’

City of Edinburgh Council

‘Coeval won the tender for the replacement overheight vehicle detector systems. The work was completed within programme and budget. We are now satisfied that the new systems will help protect the bridges for several years to come.’

Swindon Borough Council

‘A sound, honest and efficient service provided by Coeval. Would be very happy for Coeval to manufacture and supply more of Swindon’s signs.’