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Inadequate overbridge barriers threaten Newcastle Metro safety

NEWS

NINETEEN OUT of the 55 road bridges that cross the Newcastle Metro pose a danger to the travelling public, a leading structural engineer told NCE this week.

Newcastle University's professor John Knapton assessed all road bridges that cross the 59km network in the wake of last year's Selby crash when 10 people died after a car crashed off the M62 causing an express train to derail.

He concluded that 19 of the 55 sites had insufficient barriers to prevent cars getting on to the busy lines. In many places, only wooden or mesh fences protected vehicles.

Knapton's study comes after last month's Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report into rail overbridges which said that all sites in the UK where roads crossed railways had to be assessed and remedial work carried out within two years.

Knapton dismissed the HSE report, saying most local authorities had already ranked their bridges and it was money and specific instructions that were required.

He also claimed that figures released by the HSE, showing that an average of 24 vehicles a year ended up on the railway lines were misleading and that the figures released for vehicles ending up on railway lines were a lot higher.

He claimed that, while he was carrying out research, a number of motorists had approached him saying some drivers whose cars had crashed on to lines had moved the vehicles themselves before the police arrived and the incidents were never recorded.

Engineering design manager Alan Marshall of South Tyneside Borough Council, which is responsible for two of the 19 bridges, said that concrete interlocking blocks were being placed at one of the sites, and his staff would inspect the other 'within the hour'.

A spokeswoman for metro operator Nexus said that responsibility for the highways lay with the local authorities, of which there are four in the region covering the bridges.

She said Nexus was carrying out a safety review of the road approaches to all the bridges, which was expected to be completed next month.

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