Plea to improve one of the country’s most hit rail bridges

A van stuck under Abbey Farm Bridge in Thetford. Picture: Steve Hastings

A van stuck under Abbey Farm Bridge in Thetford. Picture: Steve Hastings - Credit: Archant

A notorious bridge that is among the most hit in the country has not seen any safety improvements from Norfolk County Council because motorists have not been injured.

Graffiti warning drivers to take care has been daubed on the Abbey Farm low bridge in Thetford. Pict

Graffiti warning drivers to take care has been daubed on the Abbey Farm low bridge in Thetford. Picture: Damian Jermy - Credit: Damian Jermy

Abbey Farm Bridge, which links Station Road to Mundford Road, near Thetford train station, is just 2.2m (7ft 3in) and has become well-known to people in the area as vehicles regularly hit it.

Earlier this year one fed-up resident took it upon themselves to paint "low exit no vans" warning signs on either side of the bridge.

Councillors have been calling for improvements to be made but documents reveal that Norfolk County Council have not sought the works as the bridge is not a safety risk to motorists.

An Accident Investigation Study performed by Network Safety and Sustainability for County Hall in July this year found there have been three slight injury accidents to motorists in 32 years with human factors, distraction and inexperience, being blamed.

Thetford councillor Stuart Wright. Picture: Ian Burt

Thetford councillor Stuart Wright. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

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The study found that due to the low impact speed and injuries improvements could not be funded by the local safety scheme.

Stuart Wright, Thetford town councillor, said: "I think it's not just about injuries but about the impact it has on the town.

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"When it is hit it hurts businesses with it taking up to an hour to get across town."

Kingsfleet is currently being built by Hopkins Homes on the edge of the town with 5,000 houses on the A1075.

Councillor Stuart Wright. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Councillor Stuart Wright. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Archant

Mr Wright added: "The town is expanding with 5,000 homes, we need to look forward to make improvements. When the bridge is hit the town is grid locked and it will get worse with more homes."C

"Thetford train station is already one of the worst performing in the region.

"Every time the bridge is hit an engineer has to do a survey causing delays and it's going to get worse with more services.

"Commuters from Norwich to Cambridge will be relying on the Thetford link."

The report does make suggestions that chevron is installed on the south side to demonstrate how the height of the bridge changes.

A kerb be built on the north side to create a chicane and improved signage with "Very low bridge" used rather than "light vehicles only.

It is estimated this would cost £8,500.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: "The county council conducted a study on Thetford Station Underpass, to identify signing improvements and we are now liaising with the bridge's owner, Network Rail, to review these proposals."

A Network Rail spokesman said: "The Abbey Farm underbridge has been struck nine times since the start of 2019.

"Bridge strikes are completely avoidable, and they cause disruption to rail passengers and road users.

"We estimate that strikes nationally cost around £23m annually and we can't stress enough how important it is that drivers know the height and width of their vehicle and pay close attention to warning signs.

"Our campaign aimed at drivers of high-sided vehicles urges road users to "wise up and size up" their vehicle and plan their route before they head out on their journey."

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