Stonea railway underpass closed for 'up to a year' following 13 vehicle strikes this year alone
PUBLISHED: 11:04 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:04 21 November 2019
A Fenland railway underpass could be closed for up to a year after 13 vehicle strikes in 2019 alone, Network Rail revealed.
It was the final straw in October when a piece of farming machinery made the last fatal blow, causing significant damage to a protection beam.
The underpass at Stonea, which is on the Ely to Peterborough line between March and Manea will remain closed for "safety reasons" until late 2020.
It has see-sawed between the first and second most hit railway bridge in the country, the other of course being at Ely.
Network Rail route director Mark Budden said: "We need to ensure no other vehicles can strike the bridge until a new impact protection beam has been installed.
"This is crucial in enabling us to safely run train services between Ely and Peterborough."
He recognised the repair work will cause inconvenience to residents and motorists.
"But once complete we hope the upgraded beam will protect the bridge for years to come."
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The bridge, on the B1098, has a height restriction of 2.1m (7ft) and has been struck by vehicles 13 times in 2019.
Having assessed the damage contractors will remove the damaged cast iron beam and timber walkway at track level and begin the lengthy process of installing a new protection beam.
A new impact protection beam will be designed to withstand future bridge strikes and will include visible signage to warn motorists of the bridge's height restriction.
The surveys, design and associated repair works will take nine to 12 months to complete.
Drivers can continue to use the level crossing next to the underpass to cross the railway.
Network Rail says it will inform local residents living near the bridge about its closure and the reasons for the planned works.
The Stonea rail bridge was built in 1895. At a height of 2.1m it is the one of the lowest bridge structures over a highway on the Anglia rail network.
The collision on October 21 broke the outer cast iron protection beam supporting the maintenance walkway on one side of the bridge.
A temporary speed restriction of 20mph has been placed on the approaches to the adjacent level crossing along with improved lighting to ensure road safety.