The extent of the damage caused to a bridge in Huntingdon after a lorry got wedged underneath it has been revealed.
Highways England said the incident, which took place last Wednesday (August 22), could have caused chaos without the quick intervention of traffic officers and recovery teams.
The lorry hit the underside of the Huntingdon railway viaduct, which carries the A14 over the railway line and through the town, at 1.15am. The bridge has a 4.4 metre (14ft 6in) height restriction in place, with the HGV too big to pass beneath.
A lane was closed on Brampton Road following the crash, which could have seen the bridge beams damaged and made the viaduct unable to support its weight, let alone the 77,000 drivers who cross it daily on the A14, closing both the road and railway beneath it too.
Highways England said such damage would have seen the bridge need assessments which could take six months, with the repair and inspection work likely costing about £2million.
However, the extent of the damage caused by the lorry was only superficial, and traffic officers, along with contractors Kier, Cambridgeshire police and Cambridgeshire County Council, were quick to act at the scene, minimising disruption before the morning rush hour hit to prevent the town centre road being closed. With the lorry trapped beneath the steel beams of the bridge, they released air from the tyres to move it back.
The damage was then assessed to ensure the bridge remained safe, and staff found that all that was needed was a coat of paint and a couple of new black-and-yellow height warning chevrons. The lorry was removed and the road re-opened by midday.
"This crash could have had severe consequences for Huntingdon, the A14 and the wider region, so we needed to carefully assess the damage to ensure that the bridge could remain open," said Highways England service manager Austin Adkins.
"Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to drivers of tall vehicles that they need to take extra care on their journeys, particularly with low bridges, as hitting them can easily be avoided yet have a far reaching impact. I want to thank our operatives and partners who worked together to swiftly resolve what could have been a hugely disruptive incident, even with the damage being minimal."
The Huntingdon railway viaduct will be demolished after the new £1.5 billion A14 link between Cambridge and Huntingdon opens in December 2021, with new link roads making it easier to travel to, from and around the town.