A bridge in Cannock is to undergo £500,000 worth of improvements after being ‘repeatedly’ hit by oversized vehicles, leading to warnings for drivers that they face weeks of delays on the road.
The two-month scheme will see the Old Hednesford Road bridge closed to drivers while the works are carried out.
Network Rail, which is carrying out the project, says it plans to strengthen to bridge to safeguard rail services along the Cannock line.
The line, which runs between Rugeley and Birmingham, is itself destined for multi-million pound improvements when it is electrified in 2017. There are also plans to increase the speed of trains on the Chase Line – from 45-50mph to 70mph – and to introduce automatic ticket machines at stations while upgrading sleepers, rails and platforms.
The Old Hednesford Road bridge was badly damaged in October 2010 after a lorry collided with it. Although the HGV driver was unhurt, a large chunk was ripped from the vehicle’s trailer and weakened the bridge and the road had to be closed off for 10 hours.
Network Rail says it is now planning to alter the design of the bridge by removing the supports which, the firm says, despite signs warning drivers of large vehicles of their height, have been driven into on a number of occasions.
Nichola Smith, project manager for Network Rail, said: “The work at Old Hednesford Road is essential to safeguard rail services along the Cannock Line and we’ve worked closely with the local authority to minimise disruption to motorists as much as possible.
“Despite the bridge being clearly marked, it has a history of being struck by oversize vehicles, so the work we will be completing will reduce the risk of a bridge strike and also increase the strength of the bridge causing less disruption in future.”
Communications officer for the firm, Ben Herbert, added the works are proactive in ensuring the bridge is suitable and safe for up to another 50 years.
“The bridge itself will remain the same,” said Mr Herbert.
“It has been hit lots of times which has led to it being weakened, so we’re essentially changing the way it’s built.
“It’s just the design we’re changing to make sure vehicles no longer hit it, making it more sustainable for the future.
“What’s more, every time the bridge gets hit we have to close the road and the rail line to check the structure, which causes delays to both motorists and train users.
“The works will mean the bridge is temporarily closed but these are proactive measures for the future – making sure it’s fit for the next 30, 40 even 50 years.”