By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
The news that a bridge in Wimbledon is the most crashed into in London came as no surprise to long-suffering locals.
Last year Network Rail recorded 10 crashes at the bridge in Lower Downs Road.
These were just the incidents reported and neighbours estimate it may be higher with vans getting into trouble three times a week.
Charlie, 51, who lives near the bridge said: “I’ve been here seven years and in that time they have put up extra signs.
“We quite often hear as someone gets stuck underneath, it’s become a local attraction for the neighbours we go out and have a look.”
Most neighbours said that the main culprits are drivers in rental vans.
Emma James, 35, said: “I reckon it happens three times a week, people don’t report it and sometimes they manage to reverse.”
Some locals, like Ajay Patel, 43, think a barrier across the bridge could stop tall vehicles in their tracks.
When vans do get stuck under the bridge it causes chaos as the road closes for hours.
Kinga Sasim, 37, said: “From my point of view I don’t think they can do any more, drivers have to be more vigilant checking before they go through.
“When they get stuck it is hideous, it creates huge traffic and the first thing I can notice is the pollution, that is the most annoying bit.”
Local councillor David Dean says that in the 60s there used to be bells under the bridge to warn drivers that they were too tall for it.
While he doesn’t want to see this measure reintroduced, he thinks a few changes could reduce the number of vans crashing into the bridge.
He said: “The issue with the bridge is that halfway through it the bridge on the North side gets lower by about 15 inches.
“It is always hire vans that get stuck, people that normally drive a car don’t realise that the bridge isn’t as tall as they remember,
“In the 60s they used to have a load of bells there when they rang, vehicles stopped, it’s hilarious.”
He thinks that the council could take a measures to improve the situation.
He added: “There aren’t enough way to get from the South to the North. The council for the last 30 or 40 years had a plan to put another bridge in Wimbledon town centre. We want that extra bridge so less cars will go through Lower Downs.”
He also wants to see a trial of banning all high sided vans and reopening Walpole Road in Colliers Wood to traffic both ways to also reduce the number of cars coming through the bridge.
Ellie Burrows from Network Rail said: “Bridge strikes cause unnecessary delays, costs and safety issues for road and rail users.
“To compound matters, they drain public funds which should be used on upgrading and improving our network.”
Merton council was contacted for comment.
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