THE LATEST road vehicle to crash onto a railway line - this week in Essex - has highlighted a lack of action to tackle dangerous road over rail bridges.
Part of an articulated lorry was struck by a freight train last Thursday after crashing onto railway lines from an A137 road bridge near Ardleigh.
But NCE has learned that only 12 of the county's 108 road over rail bridges highlighted for inspection in February, following last year's Selby crash, have been looked at.
Alarm was raised by Selby last year when 10 people died after a passenger train was derailed by a road vehicle and crashed onto the path of a freight train. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recommended swift risk assessment of all road over rail bridges.
The HSE report in February said that all 10,000 bridges that cross rail lines in the UK should be risk ranked within a year and action taken within two.
Monday's accident has raised concern about a lack of coordination between bodies for carrying out the risk assessments and taking action. Railtrack, which is responsible for some main line bridge structures but not the roads that run across them, is not providing any funding for the surveys. It is however, assisting local authorities by liasing and providing information.
But following this week's accident in Essex, a Railtrack spokesman said no one from Essex County Council had been in contact since publication of the HSE report.
He said that the two other counties that make up Railtrack's Eastern region had been liasing and Sussex had completed its bridge assessments while Norfolk was nearing completion.
Essex County Council bridge engineer Clive Woodruff confirmed that no contact had been made between Essex and Railtrack, but said as NCE went to press 'Railtrack phoned today and we have agreed to meet later in the week to discuss the situation.'
He said that in the immediate aftermath of the Selby crash in February 2001, consultant Mouchel had been commissioned to inspect 13 bridges that Essex County Council was responsible for and felt were high risk.
Since the HSE's report in February Mouchel has again been commissioned to look at the other 108 road over rail bridges in the county, some the responsibility of the council, but mostly Railtrack. So far only 12 have been inspected.
The Department of Transport (DfT) has set up a working group to look at the problems confronting local authorities, but could not give a timescale for any conclusions.
A spokesman said it was hoping to establish a protocol outlining whose responsibility it was to pay for and carry out improvement works on bridges. But he added that so far the DfT had failed to provide extra cash to local authorities and that authorities would have to prioritise within existing budgets.
The working group, which includes representatives from the DfT, local authorities, Railtrack, HSE and the Highways Agency, would also be looking at how to assess and minimise risk, accident and near miss reporting and safety barriers.
In this week's accident the articulated lorry lost control on the A137 Colchester to Ipswich road in Essex at about 5.20am, jack knifed, and ended up skidding on its side in to the railway bridge parapet wall.
The 1.85m parapet reinforced concrete wall is dowelled in to the deck and has a single skin of bricks on either side. On impact the drivers cab flipped over the wall onto the track beneath. The wall had been rebuilt in 1982 to Highway Authority standards which still apply today.
The cab was then hit by a Freightliner freight train travelling between Ipswich and Birmingham pulling 19 containers. It did not derail.