Between the 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 financial years bridge strikes increased by a whopping 70 per cent.
Between the 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 financial years bridge strikes increased by a whopping 70 per cent. News Corp FILE IMAGE

Huge increase in 'dangerous' incidents, transport delays

TRUCKS dangerously colliding with bridges, causing major delays and expensive damage to Queensland's traffic network have increased at an alarming rate.

Between the 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 financial years bridge strikes increased by a whopping 70 per cent.

The significant increase in incidents, which also put other road users in danger, has sparked calls for immediate licence suspensions for those responsible, along with hefty fines.

A 'bridge strike' is when a truck crashes into a bridge where the railway passes over a road because the vehicle is too high to fit underneath. 

During the 2017-2018 year there were 94 bridge strikes reported across southeast Queensland's rail network.

Queensland Rail has recently spent $4.8 million installing new prevention, detection and protection measures on bridges from Brisbane to Ipswich, north to the Sunshine Coast and south to the Gold Coast.

But the figures show drivers are still not getting the message.  

Just this month a bridge strike at Chelmer caused major major delays on the Ipswich and Springfield lines.

The truck became wedged under the rail bridge near the corner of Bridge St and Honour Ave.

 

Major delays for commuters 

Queensland Rail Executive General Manager Nick King said the 94 incidents reported in 2017-2018 caused delays to more than 700 transport services, affecting 184,000 customers.  

"Which is extremely frustrating for both us and of course the 184,000 customers who were impacted as a result," Mr King said. 

"Not only do bridge strike incidents have the ability to be extremely dangerous for the motorists involved, but they can also cause costly damage to our infrastructure and lengthy delays to our customers while we carry out bridge inspections and any required repairs."

Drivers responsible for bridge strikes face fines of up to $1,009 and four demerit points for damaging Queensland Rail infrastructure.  

 

Call for harsher punishment 

Rail Back On Track transport advocate Robert Dow wants those penalties increased.

Mr Dow praised Queensland Rail for taking bridge strikes "very seriously" but said there needed to be more support from other government agencies including police and transport authorities to "get rid of this scourge".

"The first offence should be a three to six-month automatic licence suspension with fine, and cost recovery. The second offence should be a lifetime ban," Mr Dow said.   

"We need more education campaigns, bridge protection and warnings. Transport companies need to be responsible for ensuring drivers have designated safe routes as well as the driver acknowledging their height and documented route selection, which is particularly important for weekend removal van hire." 

Mr Dow said another measure could be an in house can warning device that sounds when the truck is approaching a low-level bridge. 

Queensland Rail's Mr King also highlighted the importance of preparation and planning. 

"Each of (the reported) incidents could have easily been avoided," Mr King said. 

"And we're urging motorists to take three simple steps: know the height and load of your vehicle, plan your route in advance to avoid rail bridges where your vehicle is over-height, and lastly - pay attention and adhere to alternate routes in place."   

 

Rail Back on Track's Robert Dow. Photo Inga Williams / The Reporter
Rail Back on Track's Robert Dow. Photo Inga Williams / The Reporter Inga Williams IR140314TRANSLINK3

 

Queensland Rail's fight to stop taxpayers footing the bill and prevent strikes

Queensland Rail Executive General Manager Nick King said his organisation actively pursued drivers for the cost of repairs following bridge strikes. 

In 2014, one bridge strike caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and bent tracks on the Nambour line

"The cost of repairs would otherwise be borne by taxpayers," Mr King said.

"For the past two financial years Queensland Rail has recovered $33,020."

The $4.8 million was spent installing new bridge strike prevention beams at Dakabin, Wynnum, Goodna and at Countess Street in Brisbane's CBD.

Similar beams are installed at Price Street in Nambour, Allwood Street in Indooroopilly, Muriel Avenue in Moorooka and Annerley Road in Dutton Park.

"Protection measures can vary from site to site, and can also include height chimes, and state-of-the-art over-height detection systems with active signage," Mr King said. 

"These new technologies and detection systems provide real-time alerts to Queensland Rail staff when a strike happens and allow for remote inspections to reduce the time it takes to resume services.

"Bridge strike detection systems have helped to improve reporting of strikes as they happen and since 2017, 22 additional systems have been installed at (22 bridges)."

 

Strikes are "completely avoidable"

Every single bridge in the southeast Queensland rail network has clear height clearance signage and many also have protection beams.

Transport advocate Mr Dow said while the beams protect the bridges, road users and bystanders were still at "very serious risk".

"A number of bridges now have protection beams, but they still are regularly struck by oversize vehicles," Mr Dow said.  

"It is only a matter of time before we have a disaster unless urgent action is taken."

Queensland Rail Executive General Manager Nick King said with the existing warnings and signage, there was really "no excuse" for drivers. 

"It's up to motorists to be alert and know their vehicle's height and load," Mr King said. 

"This message is particularly important for people who may not be used to driving over-height vehicles, such as rental truck drivers, or those who might've recently gotten themselves a new truck or caravan. 

"Before you head on the road, learn your vehicle's height and plan your route accordingly, steering clear of any rail bridges where your vehicle is over-height."  

 

Top 10 Bridge Strike Locations (2017-18)

1.       Oxley Road, Corinda

2.       Logan Road, Buranda

3.       Pickering Street, Gaythorne

4.       Pine Street, Wynnum

5.       Muriel Avenue, Rocklea

6.       Dunlop Terrace, Corinda

7.       Boomerang Street, Milton

8.       Ernest Street, South Brisbane

9.       Annerley Road, Park Road

10.       Bergin Street, Booval

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