Some success in our campaign to end bridge strikes – a south circular technology upgrade

Many of you will be familiar with the regular delay and disruption caused by bridge strikes to the railway bridge over the South Circular in Tulse Hill. It is the most regular hit bridge in the UK – the regular collisions have caused over 200 hours of delay to Southern and Thameslink passengers in the past 12 months.

The impact of a bridge strike is incredibly disruptive – the roads are blocked, the trains are delayed and traffic is routed down residential streets. After years of inaction from TfL and Network Rail, we have been working hard to raise the profile of the problem and get some investment in solving it. We have been working with local residents, TfL officers, our MP and the London Assembly member, Flo Eshalomi AM.

The bridge’s location, near to the Tulse Hill station platforms, means it isn’t possible to raise the level, so we are petitioning for long term investment to instead lower the road in order to ensure all vehicles can fit underneath without any collision. This is a significant engineering challenge and will require substantial investment.

In the meantime, we have successfully lobbied for better technology and signage to prevent oversized lorries from attempting to go under the bridge. A detector system has been installed which is triggered by overheight vehicles. This will set off an alert to drivers that they need to stop or turn off the road before the bridge. We have had additional signage installed on the bridge, steel beams to protect it and engineers based nearby at peak hours to inspect the bridge quickly if needed, to minimise delays to train services. We have also successfully pushed for CCTV to be installed.

The cost of installation and future maintenance has been shared by TfL and Network Rail, and the systems are linked to TfL’s London Streets and Traffic Control Centre. That means the condition of the system can be monitored remotely and if a fault occurs it can be dealt with immediately. The LED signs are low energy.

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Bridge strike in Tulse Hill…

… but a different bridge to normal.

The bridge over Thurlow Park Road is the UK’s most frequently hit bridge, but today, it was the railway bridge over Norwood Road that caused the problems.

Norwood Road is currently closed to traffic as emergency services deal with this:

And earlier, the bridge was hit by a vehicle transporting vans, causing delays to traffic and trains.

Reducing bridge strikes on Thurlow Park Road – work starts next week

The railway bridge over the South Circular is hit by HGVs more than any other railway bridge in the UK. Every time a lorry drives into the bridge, trains to and from central London are delayed and traffic is redirected down residential streets. In the meantime, large vehicles are indiscriminately redirected down Lancaster Avenue.  It is disruptive and dangerous, and we want to do something to solve the problem.

We have been working with TfL to address the issue. Officers met with residents a couple of months ago, and recently our new London Assembly Member, Flo Eshalomi, visited the ward to discuss this issue ahead of her election.
In the short term, we have pushed for better signage – which takes into account the actual height of vehicles to ensure oversized vehicles are targeted. In the long term, we want the road to be lowered so that no vehicle is at risk of hitting the bridge, and so that no lorries are diverted down Lancaster Avenue.

We are pleased that action is being taken this week. London Highways Alliance Contract (LoHAC) workers, on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), are planning to modernise the Overheight Vehicle Detection Systems on the A205 Thurlow Park Road, on both approaches to the Network Rail Bridge near Tulse Hill Gyratory. The contractors will be installing new Overheight Vehicle Detection Systems and associated loop sensors, ducting and electrical connections, in order to give overheight vehicles more advanced warning of the low bridge and to divert them via alternative routes.

Works are planned to start on Tuesday 24 May 2016 and will be phased over approximately 10 weeks, depending on weather conditions. Footway works will take place from Mondays to Fridays between 08:00 and 18:00, and on Saturdays between 08:00 and 14:00. Carriageway works will take place from Mondays to Fridays between 20:00 and 05:00, nights only, with noisy works completed before 23:00.

Bridge over Troubled Traffic*

A big thank you to residents and David McKenna from TfL for yesterday’s meeting about bridge strikes on the railway over the South Circular. 

It was a very productive meeting looking at – 

  • Bridge strike statistics – Thurlow Park has the most bridge strikes in the country
  • Impact on the local area of bridge strikes – economic cost of delayed journeys, effect on air pollution, impact on Lancaster Avenue when it is used to divert traffic, road safety, damage to bridge, cost to train operating companies
  • Long term strategy – David and his team are developing the business case for lowering the road as a way to prevent bridge strikes and to remove the need to divert any traffic down Lancaster Avenue. This will take some time because it is a complicated engineering challenge thanks to bridge foundations and the sewer. It will also have a huge impact on the road, as it would have to be closed for the works to be completed.
  • Short term strategy – David is installing better signage within the next 4 months. These will be “smart”, triggered only by oversized vehicles which should mean they are more effective. CCTV will be installed to monitor and measure impact

Our next steps as a community are to – 

  1. The community will write to the mayoral and GLA candidates requesting that they all prioritise this issue.
  2. David will feedback based on questions raised by attendees, including about whether lorry drivers and their companies can be prosecuted or fined when they hit the bridge, more data, maps showing locations of signs and how the community can support his business case. 
  3. The signs will be installed within the next 4 months.
  4. Feasibility studies will be developed, beginning now. This may include some drill holes and radars to identify services underground. These will be ongoing for the next few months.
  5. Once a new London Mayor and GLA member are in post, we will organise a meeting to request that this is high on their agenda.
  6. We will organise a progress meeting in approx. 6 months where David can share how he’s getting on. We can invite Network Rail and Thames Water, as appropriate. 

Thank you LARA for organising the meeting and Rosemead for hosting. If you would like to be involved in this project but weren’t aware of or able to attend the meeting, please get in touch on abirley@lambeth.gov.uk

*excuse the pun, borrowed from Richard Alford on Lancaster Avenue!

Another bridge strike on Thurlow Park Road

This morning another bridge strike involving a large lorry disrupted commuter trains and traffic. This bridge is the worst in London for strikes and the disruption has a huge impact and cost.

As we shared a couple of months ago, we have raised this issue with TfL and action is being taken as a result. Senior officers are looking to invest in better signage to replace the existing temporary signs before the Spring. These should provide a short term improvement – and signs can be reused so if and when they are no longer needed in Thurlow Park, we can ensure they are reinstalled elsewhere to make best use of resources.

To tackle the problem in the long term, a business case for the large amount of funding it would take to lower the road is being put together. This would also be a significant engineering challenge – there is a sewer below the south circular and the side roads like St Faith’s would need to be examined to work out how to accommodate lower junctions.

Senior TfL officers have offered to meet with Lancaster Avenue residents this month as their road is currently the diversion route for oversized vehicles. We will be discussing new signage, improving 20mph signage to reduce speeding, and the long term plans for the bridge.