Needham Market bridge girders have been hit six times since March

Posted:
4:30 p.m. November 17, 2021



New safety beams installed on Britain’s “most rutted bridge” at Needham Market have saved hours of delay on the main line between Ipswich and Norwich and Cambridge since their installation in March, according to Network Rail.

The girders have been hit six times in the past eight months – but because they are separated from the bridge structure which has not been damaged and the trains have been able to continue using the line without interruption.

Before the barriers were put in, every time the bridge was hit, an engineer had to come out and inspect the structure, which could take some time before trains could pass through it again.

In 2020/21, it was hit 19 times, making it Network Rail’s most damaged bridge.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “The beams do exactly what they are supposed to do, protecting the bridge from damage. It is the drivers’ responsibility to know how high their vehicles are. The height of the beams. is quite clearly marked. “

The bridge itself is eight feet (2.5 meters) from the ground and the girders are slightly lower – seven feet six inches (2.3 meters), but the Network Rail spokeswoman said that shouldn’t be make no difference.


There are 13 signs, including this one on the harness itself, telling drivers what the clearance is.
– Credit: Bob Reason

She said: “Drivers really should have more than six inches of clearance before going under a bridge to account for road conditions.”


Low bridge at Needham Market.

Prior to the installation of the beams, there was an eight foot clearance.
– Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Very few cars are more than seven feet tall, although there have been several incidents of people towing trailers that have been taken onto the bridge – drivers apparently forgot the size of the object they are towing.

The spokesperson added: “On very low bridges like Needham Market we tend to have incidents with vans and trailers. know the size of their vehicles.

Beams were installed on other very low bridges including Manningtree and Ely. At Needham Market Network Rail installed 13 new road signs warning drivers of the new restrictions – but there have always been six incidents, each of which closed the road and caused significant damage to the vehicles involved.


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