New collision beams 'catching drivers out' at Suffolk's 'most bashed' bridge
- Credit: Bob Reason
Residents say a reduced height clearance has been catching drivers out in Needham Market after Suffolk's "most bashed bridge" was fitted with collision beams.
The collision beams were installed at Coddenham Road rail bridge over the weekend to prevent damage and disruption to train services, significantly lowering the height clearance of the bridge.
Previously, the bridge had a height clearance of 8ft (or 2.5m).
Now, as a result of the beams, vehicles must be under 7ft 6ins (or 2.3m) high to pass underneath safely.
This means a number of vehicles which were previously able to pass underneath the bridge are now unable to and residents have raised concerns that the beams have already been hit.
Suffolk Highways, which worked alongside Network Rail to install the beams, said it has updated 13 information signs on approach to the bridge.
Despite this, residents say the collision beams have already been hit on both sides since they were installed over the weekend.
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Heather Foster said the beams already appear to be scratched and dented on the lower edge.
Glen Marney added: "I predict that the road will be closed many more times for the repair of these, more so now there is less headroom."
Bob Reason, who lives less than half a mile away, said he thinks more signs are needed to tell drivers that the height has been reduced.
"There has always been a big problem with drivers not noticing the signs," he said.
"But now drivers who regularly use the road are suddenly finding that they can no longer get underneath the bridge.
"I walk under the bridge twice a day and I have already seen a number of people hit the beams since they were put in."
Mr Reason has since contacted the local fire stations in Needham Market and Stowmarket to alert them to the reduced heights.
He said they will be doing a survey to see whether they can still drive through or whether they will need to find an alternative route.
"The beams have been installed to protect the bridge from damage and to stop the train services being stopped, but they have reduced the headroom so much that so many people will get caught out," he added.
From April 2014 to September 2019 the bridge was struck 53 times, causing more than 10,736 minutes of train delays and costing Network Rail around £3,000 to repair damaged chevrons.
It was named the "most bashed bridge" in Suffolk and Network Rail announced plans for CCTV to be installed last summer.
Following the installation of the collision beams, Mr Reason said he would like to see more warning signs put in place on the approach to the bridge, as well as some height detectors to show road users they are too high to pass.
A spokesman for Suffolk Highways, which is responsible for updating the road signs, said it has since been agreed that further signs will be introduced to help alert drivers to the reduced height clearance.
"Prior to Network Rail installing the collision beams at the Coddenham Road rail bridge, our teams designed and updated 13 information signs on the approaches to the bridge," a spokesman said.
"This includes a temporary patch that has been added onto the A14 sign detailing the new height clearance.
"It has since been agreed with Network Rail, that Suffolk Highways will install additional temporary black/yellow signs each side of the bridge, to read “BRIDGE HEADROOM REDUCED TO 7’6” (2.3m)”, as well as red/white temporary signs, showing the new height clearance limits."
Network Rail explained that the collision beams have been installed slightly lower than the bridge in order to protect it, so that vehicles will hit the beams and not the bridge - therefore saving it from further damage.
Drivers should always be aware of the height of their vehicle, and if unsure should use an alternative route.