Swarco OVD signage helps reduce bridge strikes on key London rail link


A key bridge on London’s rail network has been protected from damage by overheight trucks with the deployment of an electronic signage system from Swarco Traffic Ltd.

Six full-color full matrix electronic warning signs from Swarco have helped Network Rail and Transport for London (TfL) to slash the number of oversized trucks hitting a notorious railway bridge on London’s South Circular Road by more than a third since being installed last summer. In the six-month period from January – July 2016, before the new measures were introduced, there were 11 crashes at the Thurlow Park Bridge in Tulse Hill. Since the new measures have been in place, in the past six months, there have only been seven incidents, and only one in the last four months. At one point the bridge was being hit on average almost twice a month, causing more than 218 hours of delays to Southern Rail and Thameslink passengers between July 2015 and July 2016.

With high vehicle impacts to bridges already a familiar occurrence, Swarco has over a number of years, developed an overheight vehicle detection (OVD) system. Using combinations of inductive loops and infrared detection to determine whether a vehicle is too high to safely pass under a bridge, the system activates a message on an LED display advising the driver of the height restriction and to either ‘turn back’ or to ‘divert right or left’. They are installed either side of the bridge, giving ample warning for oversized vehicles.

The signs use energy-efficient LEDs for enhanced visual impact and to give early and clear information, particularly for non-English speaking drivers. Swarco’s optical control system significantly reduces power consumption of the LEDs. Lower power also means that the service life of other electrical and electronic components is extended, and the LEDs do not suffer from any decrease in light intensity or color change throughout their life cycle.

“Every time a lorry hits this bridge it causes disruption to thousands of passengers and this reduction is a step in the right direction,” Mark Huband, Network Rail’s route asset manager. “With a railway network as busy and complex as ours, knock-on delays can spread very quickly.”

Khurram Khan Jadoon, senior traffic engineer at TfL, noted, “Swarco’s signs are multi-purpose. Not only do they meet the demands of TfL, but the signs are highly reliable and feedback from the general public has been extremely positive. On top of this, the signs are variable, so we are able to use them for alternative purposes to provide further traffic information to road users. This is a great benefit to us. The signs are integrated with our London streets and traffic control center for full monitoring and control.”

Mark Hickmott, head of projects at Swarco Traffic, added, “This is a tangible example of how intelligent systems, intelligently installed, can have a dramatic impact in improving highways efficiency and keeping people moving, whether on the road or on the railway.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).