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'Significant damage' to rail bridge will slow down trains and close underpass to motorists for several weeks

PUBLISHED: 16:48 21 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:58 21 October 2019

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine - believed to be a carrot topper - struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Farm machinery that struck a railway bridge in the Fens earlier today has caused significant damage, says Network Rail.

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine � believed to be a carrot topper � struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine � believed to be a carrot topper � struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Farm machinery that struck a railway bridge in the Fens earlier today has caused significant damage, says Network Rail.

"The vehicle impact to the railway bridge earlier today at Stonea has caused significant damage to the impact protection beam and supporting brickwork," said a Network Rail spokesperson.

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

"As there is a risk that the beam can fall onto the carriageway the road has been closed to traffic to keep the public safe.

"Our priority now is to allow engineers to prop and secure the beam as quickly and safely as possible."

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Repairs could mean closure of the underpass for several weeks.

Network Rail says that as the beam is a separate structure from the deck that supports the railway track, they can continue to operate services with a temporary speed restriction in place.

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

"We will continue to monitor the situation overnight and over the coming days and take any necessary precautions to keep passengers and drivers safe until the beam has been secured safely," said the spokesperson.

The underpass will remain closed to traffic while engineers assess the damage and undertake emergency repair works to the structure.

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

"The underpass could be closed for several weeks while we work to replace the damaged beam," said the spokesperson.

"We can't stress enough how important it is that drivers know the height and width of their vehicle and any towed equipment and pay close attention to warning signs."

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Trains on the main Ely to Peterborough line through the Fens are being forced to reduce speed following the bridge strike.

The bridge was hit today for the second time in a week - but this time has suffered some damage.

The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire The scene at Stonea Bridge at the 16ft in March this morning (October 21) after an agricultural machine – believed to be a carrot topper – struck the railway bridge. Network Rail engineers are now on site. Picture: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Network Rail says trains are running at a lower speed causing some delays to services on the line while the bridge is being inspected.

The spokesperson said: "This morning at vehicle towing a large piece of machinery struck the rail bridge in Stonea, Cambridgeshire.

"Train services are currently affected by a temporary speed restriction while engineers inspect the bridge to ensure it is safe for passengers and road users and undertake any necessary repairs.

"The bridge, which is on the Ely-Peterborough railway line between March and Manea, has a height restriction of 2.1m (7ft)."

The spokesperson said this is the second strike on the bridge inside a week bringing the total number of strikes to 13 since January 2019.

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

"We estimate that strikes cost around £23million 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.

"Last year, we launched a campaign aimed at drivers of high-sided vehicles urging them to "wise up and size up" their vehicle and plan their route before they head out on their journey."

Just after 8am agricultural machinery - thought to be a carrot topper - hit the bridge as it drove under the bridge after the rail gates were shut to allow for a train to pass

However damage to the bridge prompted vehicles to be banned from using the under pass whilst engineers assess the damage.

A temporary road block was set up whilst investigations continue into the damage.

Earlier Network Rail had reported that the bridge structure remains sound although a more detailed inquiry is now under way.

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