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Car crash casts doubt on rail bridge safety criteria

News

ROAD AND rail interface assessment methods were cast into doubt last week after a car crashed through a 'low risk' bridge approach parapet, ending up on a railway line near Middlesbrough.

No-one died in the accident, which happened last Friday evening on the A177 dual carriageway at Howden Bridge near Thorpe Thewles.

But the accident has raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of Network Rail's assessments following the 2001 Selby train crash.

Network Rail and Stockton Borough Council had assessed the bridge since Selby, scoring it 87 points out of a possible 143.

This rates it as 'low risk'.

The risk ranking takes into account the height and construction of parapets and approach parapets, as well as the geometry and speed limits of road and railway.

The Howden Bridge parapet was 1.4m high. But the car in Friday's crash left the road 5m before the bridge, crashing through a 450mm high stone approach parapet. From there it travelled 15m across a fi ld before plunging down a 12m deep railway cutting onto the track.

A collision was avoided when the driver of a freight train saw the accident and told signallers to stop all trains on the line.

Police estimate that the car was travelling at 140km/h, well in excess of the 95km/h speed limit.

Stockton Borough Council development and regeneration senior engineer Peter Joynes said that bridges which scored below 90 would not require upgrading, but added that the bridge would be reassessed by the end of the week.

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