Plymouth bridge strike ‘cuts off’ city and Cornwall

The bridge's arch was damaged during the bridge strike on 30 August.

A bridge strike east of Plymouth station on 30 August cut rail services to the Devon city and the whole of Cornwall, with ongoing disruption expected to last until around 3 September.

A Tesco lorry hit the structure and the incident was reported by a local resident at around 1500 on 30 August, with all trains halted. Inspections found cracked sleepers on the Down Main line, and the arch was also damaged. Power, fibre optic and signalling cables were also routed on the bridge parapet, complicating inspections. Later that evening, trains were authorised to run at walking pace on the Down Main line, with speeds later increased.

The following morning, 31 August, single line working began between Plymouth and Totnes, with one train per hour running and a fleet of around 30 replacement coaches to provide road transport between Plymouth, Exeter St Davids and Tiverton Parkway. Great Western Railway and CrossCountry advised passengers not to travel unless their journey was essential. The lorry was freed on 31 August, ahead of repairs starting.

No expected date for completion of repairs has been announced at the time of writing, although train operators are warning passengers to expect disruption until close of service on 3 September. 

Network Rail says an average of five bridges per day are hit by lorries, costing a total of £20 million per year. It is calling on lorry drivers and haulage companies to take more care, know the height of their vehicles, choose suitable routes, and take notice of the height warning markers on railway bridges. 

NR Western Route Director Mike Gallop said, ‘This is happening far too often where thousands of passengers have their plans ruined by careless driving.’ He added ‘Those delays are compounded by the huge bill which is often picked up by the taxpayer.’