‘Give us power to fine drivers who hit Grantham’s bridges’

Bridge strike in Barrowby Road, Grantham.
Bridge strike in Barrowby Road, Grantham.
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A call has been made to allow the county council to penalise companies when their lorry drivers hit railway bridges.

The regular incidents in Grantham cause traffic chaos, delay trains and cost Network Rail hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in compensation to rail companies.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says haulage companies are using cheaper satnavs which are unsuitable for lorries and which lead drivers to hit bridges and flout weight restrictions on roads.

Councillor Richard Davies, Lincolnshire County Council’s 
executive Mmember for highways, said: “Recent evidence collected by Network Rail would suggest that bridge strikes here are happening on a weekly basis and the impact on both the local and national travelling public is huge.

“It simply cannot be right that people are driving vehicles without due regard for the road and obstacles they are likely to encounter.

“We’ve tried working with the navigation data companies to alter routes for low bridges and weight restrictions with limited success.

“And I’m not sure the proposal to mandate correct equipment in cabs will make much of a difference. If drivers are ignoring massive yellow signs, who’s to say they’ll pay any more attention to satnavs?

“I think the time has come that we treat those who put lives at risk by hitting bridges or driving on unsuitable roads in the way we do speeding motorists, and give councils the power to penalise them.”

Network Rail says that in 2016, Grantham bridges were struck 14 times, causing 1,354 delay minutes to trains and £175,000 in compensation costs. This is less than in 2014, when bridge strikes in the town cost Network Rail more than £566,000.

Coun Davies’ comments come after the report by the LGA, which says that while the majority of lorry drivers are reputable and responsible, a minority cut corners by using cheaper satnavs designed for cars.

LGA transport spokesman Coun Martin Tett said: “It is common sense that all lorry drivers should use satnavs designed for trucks, but this is only going to become a reality when it is a mandatory requirement.

“Lorry drivers who get wedged in narrow roads or under bridges not only endanger themselves, other road users and pedestrians, but also cause massive disruption. This has a significant impact on local economies, particularly in rural areas.

“If a community is being plagued by problems, councils should be able to respond to their concerns by issuing fines to act as a deterrent. We would stress that most lorry drivers are reputable and drive responsibly. These powers would be targeted at the minority who do not follow the law.”

A spokesman for Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership said: “Satnavs for HGVs have been available for a number of years, even car satnavs can have low bridge locations added and will serve the same purpose. Some drivers have become too reliant on satnavs and fail to look at street and directional signs and become wholly dependent on the technology which can, at any time, fail. You should plan your route, keep a map should your satnav fail and look out of the window more instead of at the satnav screen.”