Campaigns: Public Awareness - Drivers warned to ’mind the gap’

In the past five-and-a-half years 2,000 railway bridges have been ’bashed’ nearly 5,000 times by errant drivers. The cost of bridge repairs exceeds pounds 5 million per year, together with the huge additional cost of trains’ punctuality. Railtrack launched a PR campaign to alleviate these problems and curb the dangers.

In the past five-and-a-half years 2,000 railway bridges have been

’bashed’ nearly 5,000 times by errant drivers. The cost of bridge

repairs exceeds pounds 5 million per year, together with the huge

additional cost of trains’ punctuality. Railtrack launched a PR campaign

to alleviate these problems and curb the dangers.



Objective



To reduce the number of accidents by getting drivers to check the height

of the bridges on their route before starting out on their journey.



Tactics



Research was carried out to identify the size of the problem and look at

a way to mitigate bridge strikes. Railtrack director Martin Reynolds

said that the principal cause of strikes was ’ignorance of vehicle

heights and equipment left raised’. The audience ranged from commercial

drivers and hire companies to horse box owners.



Railtrack’s in-house PR team dramatically captured attention by

deliberately driving a double decker bus into Whitehouse Road Bridge in

Swindon, the most frequently ’bashed’ bridge in the country.



The event was planned with the help of the council, police force, fire

services and used a soon-to-be scrapped bus. The in-house PR team

contacted national and regional planning desks and ensured that the

story was on the diary for the following week. To improve the chances of

TV coverage, background footage was delivered to television companies

the night before the event.



Railtrack PR offices around the country held local events at transport

cafes, service stations and ports, which were covered locally by the

print and broadcast media.



This was supported by the production of thousands of leaflets, posters

and conversion stickers for drivers with the slogan ’size does

matter’.



At the same time a national 24-hour telephone hotline was set up to

encourage people to report bridge strikes and allow them to check any

diversions or general route information.



Results



The campaign struck a nerve within the media with extensive coverage at

all levels. The Swindon launch was featured on the ITN lunch time, early

evening and ten o’clock news. The Express and the Mail both gave a full

page to the story and the Independent gave it a half-page photo

spread.



The story was covered by radio stations throughout the country, with

national coverage by Radio Five Live.



Requests have come in, largely from lorry drivers and hire companies

alike, for more posters, leaflets and stickers to be circulated. Of the

74 calls made to the hotline, 55 were requests for material. Fourteen

calls have also been received making suggestions on route planning and

requests for diversions.



Verdict



The strength of the campaign was in its novelty, as Tamsin Davies from

the Swindon Messenger says: ’The stunt was designed to stick in drivers’

minds’, rather than making a long term impression on the media.



Railtrack’s Nicky Louth-Davies says that she is pleased with the

response but figures for the amount of bridges hit by drivers since the

campaign have not yet been released. Although with the latest Department

of Transport’s (1994) figures estimating the number of vehicles of over

28 tonnes on the road at 91,000 vehicles, the response to date shows

there is still potential for an even more hard-hitting educational

campaign.



Client: Railtrack

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Launch of a national anti-bridge bash campaign

Timescale: October 1996-1997

Budget: pounds 40,000



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