More than 1,000 people signed a petition in less than 24 hours this week calling for urgent action to ‘Make our roads through Wrecclesham safer!’.
MP Jeremy Hunt and coucillors have also joined the clamour for immediate safety improvements, after a woman was miraculously rescued from her car hours after it was crushed by an HGV that hit the A325 Wrecclesham Road railway bridge just after 6pm on Monday.
A huge combined effort by the emergency services ensured the safe release of the female driver of a Nissan Qashqai in the early hours of Tuesday, who police say suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
She was taken to a major trauma centre by road, accompanied by a clinical team from Surrey’s air ambulance, which had landed at Wrecclesham Recreation Ground.
A change.org petition was launched by Charlotte Panter the afternoon after the crash, and as of 10am on Friday had mustered almost 2,000 signatures.
Ms Panter said: “Heavy good vehicles are more frequently exceeding the maximum height limit of the bridge along the A325 in Wrecclesham. This is happening too frequently, resulting in lorries overturning, despite electronic warning signs being installed. More needs to be done.”
Villagers have recorded at least 19 major collisions involving HGVs at the A325 Wrecclesham Road railway bridge since 2014 – while Network Rail figures show there have been, on average, five bridge strikes a year at Wrecclesham since 2000.
It is believed to be the first time another car has been crushed by an HGV after overturning at the bridge.
South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt said: “This latest bridge strike is the most serious and I was relieved the lady involved will be okay. But this has to be enough.
“After years of campaigning with some success, it is clear that despite improved signage, height-warning lights and other measures to stop these HGV strikes, what has been done is just not working.
“I have called for an urgent meeting with Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for transport, infrastructure and economy, Cllr Matt Furniss, and director for environment, transport and infrastructure, Katie Stewart, and will be asking for help to once and for all resolve this dangerous road and bridge.”
Farnham Residents county councillor for Farnham South, Michaela Martin, added: “I have continually stated this bridge is a fatality waiting to happen.
“I will continue to lobby Surrey for a pedestrian tunnel and further mitigating factors such as a height gauge (steel beams and chains).
“I am told these are expensive options but what price is a life?
“However, we also need Surrey Police to actively prosecute the offending HGV drivers, who continually ignore height-warning signs and the activation detectors on both sides of the bridge.
“I look forward to hearing there has been a successful prosecution.
“My thoughts are with the injured car driver and their family, and I wish them a speedy recovery.”
Responding to the latest crash in Wrecclesham, Surrey County Council said there was “no excuse” for over-height vehicles to be using the A325 through Wrecclesham, but cautioned the issues around Wrecclesham bridge are “long-standing” and stopped short of announcing major safety improvements.
A Surrey County Council spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to hear that a woman was injured as a result of the latest bridge strike in Wrecclesham, and wish her well in her recovery. We also thank the emergency services for their quick response.
“There is plenty of signage that highlights this low bridge from all approaches to it. This includes height-activated signs in the run up to the bridge. That means there is absolutely no excuse for HGV drivers to be using this route and putting other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
“We encourage and will fully support any action to prosecute HGV drivers who ignore these instructions, and we’ll share the results of any successful prosecutions with the haulage industry to highlight that this dangerous driving will not be tolerated.
“The issues around Wrecclesham bridge are long-standing. Surrey County Council regularly reviews the options against national policies and funding opportunities, however, there remains no simple solution.”
The council listed the main actions from a review earlier this year as:
- More frequent foliage cutting by the county council on the immediate approaches so the bridge and signage are clearly visible
- Asking the bridge owner Network Rail to do more to make the low bridge more conspicuous through more painting and use of chevron signs
- Ask National Highways to amend the A3 diversion route for unplanned closures so it directs vehicles via roads in Hampshire and the A31 in Surrey rather than through Wrecclesham.
A Wrecclesham Relief Road, which would divert the A325 away from the bridge, is currently being modelled by the county council as part of the Farnham Infrastructure Programme – but the council has cautioned that the scheme would be unlikely to secure funding from the present government.
Surrey Police are appealing for witnesses and dash-cam footage of Monday’s HGV crash in Wrecclesham.
A force spokesman said: “Police were called to a two- vehicle collision on the Wrecclesham Road, Farnham, at 6.01pm.
“The collision involved a heavy goods vehicle which struck the railway bridge protection bar and rolled on to its side, crushing a Nissan Qashqai under the trailer.
“A multi-agency rescue operation was conducted by the South East Coast Ambulance Service, Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance, Surrey Fire and Rescue, Hampshire Fire and Rescue and a specialist heavy goods vehicle recovery company.
“This combined effort ensured the safe release of the female driver of the Qashqai who has sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries and has been taken to hospital.”
The police spokesman added the A325 Wrecclesham Road remained closed between Coxbridge roundabout and School Hill until around 12.30am “for vehicle recovery”.
Anyone who may have witnessed the collision or has any dash-cam footage is asked to contact the police on 101 or online at https://www.surrey.police.uk quoting reference number PR/P22144939.