Rail chaos in southwest England set to continue after Tesco truck hits bridge

Great Western Railway has warned of days of disruption for rail travellers to, from and within Devon and Cornwall following after a Tesco lorry hit a bridge in Plymouth. The refrigerated truck became jammed on bank holiday Monday, halting trains on the only rail line between western Devon, Cornwall and the rest of the UK. The lorry was removed on Tuesday afternoon, but Network Rail says “huge cracks have developed” after the crash.

“Disruption to train services using the railway tracks above is likely to continue for the rest of the week,” a spokesperson said. Normally at least three passenger trains run every hour each way between Plymouth and Exeter – with many services continuing to London and others serving Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and southern Scotland. But only one of the two lines is currently open, with a single train per hour operating in each direction.

Great Western Railway (GWR), the main operator in the region, said: “Due to the damage sustained, there is a high likelihood that disruption will continue for longer. “Customers are advised to only travel if your journey is essential.” Problems for passengers have been exacerbated by lack of rolling stock.

On Tuesday two Penzance to London Paddington trains were combined into one five-coach service – which then added intermediate stops. It was described as “full and standing” from Exeter and arrived in the capital 40 minutes late. Also on Tuesday, a lorry hit a bridge in Romsey in Hampshire, affecting GWR links between Southampton and Bristol.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s western route director, said: “This is happening far too often where thousands of passengers have their plans ruined by careless driving.

“We are urging all lorry drivers and haulage companies to take better care, look out for the height warnings on all of our bridges and take a second to think before taking a risk and causing disruption to so many people’s lives. An average of five railway bridge strikes take place each day. GWR’s deputy managing director, Richard Rowland, said: “In the past 24 hours alone, our customers’ journeys have been delayed or cancelled by two separate incidents where lorry drivers simply haven’t taken enough care on the road.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “A heavy goods vehicle operated by one of our logistics partners struck a railway bridge at Ashford Hill, Plymouth which has caused the bridge’s closure.

“We are very sorry for the problems this has caused for travellers and we are investigating how this has happened.”