That slow, rhythmic, thunking noise you can hear is David Hynes. The spokesman for WA’s Public Transport Authority has just learned that yet another truck has crashed and become stuck under the Bayswater bridge.
The truck that became stuck under the bridge this morning is the 36th vehicle to strike the 3.8-metre-high bridge since the PTA began keeping count in 2014.
“We have a special room we go into where we bang our heads against the wall, roll our eyes and slap our foreheads,” Mr Hynes said.
“When a truck hits the bridge, the bridge wins on every occasion.”
PHOTO: A truck carrying a skip bin overturns after hitting the Bayswater bridge in 2015. (ABC News: Marcus Alborn)
The 100-year-old bridge, in Perth’s eastern suburbs, has become something of a local legend.
It has its own social media accounts and is the focus of a blog keeping track of every crash.
Along with Mr Hynes, the city expels a collective groan of disbelief every time news filters through that the bridge has claimed yet another victim.
A Brownes Dairy truck is stuck under a bridge, with a police officer standing beside.
PHOTO: A milk delivery truck gets stuck trying to navigate Perth’s notorious Bayswater bridge. (Supplied: Chris Farano)
“I can maybe understand if you or I had to go and buy a shed at Bunnings and we’ve got it on the back of a hire truck — you’re not used to it, you’re driving and you whack the bridge,” Mr Hynes said.
“But too many of these are professional drivers who really are supposed to know the weight, width and height of their load.
“After the first couple, you would think people would think, ‘That bridge in Bayswater is 3.8m and I’m 3.9m — perhaps I shouldn’t go there!'”
PHOTO: Despite several warning signs, 34 trucks have hit the Bayswater bridge since 2014. (ABC News: Gian De Poloni)
Truck vs bridge clash nothing new
The puzzling thing about the Bayswater bridge is that, by comparison to other bridges, it is quite spacious.
In Brisbane, locals in the bayside suburb of Wynnum are used to driving under a 1.9-metre rail bridge.
It is affectionally referred to as “duck bridge” because people scream “duck!” driving under it.
PHOTO: With a 1.9m clearance, Brisbane’s ‘Duck Bridge’ is one of Australia’s smallest bridges. (Supplied: Google Maps)
Another Wynnum bridge just a few hundred metres down the road recently cleaned up a trailer displaying anti-Morrison government advertisements during the Federal election campaign.
“We’ll make sure the Bill Bus stays away from the Bayswater bridge!” WA Labor joked on Facebook after hearing their Queensland colleagues misjudged the 2.8-metre clearance.
PHOTO: A truck displaying an anti-Morrison Government advertisement struck a bridge in Wynnum, Queensland during the 2019 Federal Election campaign. (Supplied: Geoff Harrison)
The tight 3-metre Montague Street bridge in South Melbourne is perhaps the most notorious truck assassin in Australia, with 54 crashes recorded since 2013.
Social media and talkback radio lights up with ridicule anytime someone fails to notice the dozens of advance height warnings.
But the joke took a serious turn in 2016, when a bus struck the bridge, seriously injuring six people.
The driver was later sentenced to five years’ jail.
PHOTO: A bus crashed into the Montague St bridge in South Melbourne. (ABC News: Simon Winter)
Spectacular crashes theatre for locals
Elsewhere in Perth, the tight Stirling Road bridge in Claremont and the busy West Perth rail bridge have suffered a couple of knocks, but nowhere near as many as Bayswater.
“You hear the metal or canopy or part of the trailer hitting the bridge and that’s definitely the sound that gives it away,” said Geoff Hodder, whose cheese shop is located opposite the bridge.
“The best way to describe it is that metal hitting metal, a bit like a thunder sound. It’s that big impact — it’s like a car crash but with a sudden impact.
“When it happens, we all come out of our shops and we all stand at the corner and watch it unfold.
“It’s a bit of theatre for us.”
PHOTO: Bayswater business owner Geoff Hodder said the bridge is a local icon. (ABC News: Gian De Poloni)
Mr Hodder said he had seen some spectacular crashes over the year.
“There’s been ones where the top of the canopy has peeled back like a sardine can, you see the ribbon metal effect,” he said.
“There was one where the canopy of the truck and the trailer hit it and it concertinaed back like a piano accordion.
“It compacted all the way back, it was pretty dramatic.”
PHOTO: Luke Simpkins’s political career came to a crashing halt not long after his campaign truck became wedged under the Bayswater bridge in 2016. (Supplied: Geoff Hodder)
Why does it keep happening?
“I’ve got a theory that every time one of them does it, they win a bet,” said Paul Shanahan from the community lobby group Future Bayswater.
“Maybe it’s the infamy of getting stuck under the bridge — you can say, ‘I was one of them’.
“There’s a lot of signage, maybe they’re just really bad at judging distances.
“It’s amazing, it just keeps happening.”
Mr Hodder said the immediate aftermath of a direct hit was a mix of embarrassment and frustration.
“The truck drivers’ reaction is they’ll hold their head and think, ‘what’s just happened?'” he said.
“A few people mention it’s their GPS’s fault, that their GPS told them to go this way.
“A lot of people just don’t know their height level so they come a cropper.
“On one occasion a nursery truck hit it and there was pot plants all over the ground and soil, a real big mess.”
PHOTO: Scrape marks are visible reminders of the lifetime of stress the Bayswater bridge has encountered. (ABC News: Gian De Poloni)
Mr Hynes said safety measures put in place at the bridge over the years failed to stop the crashes.
“We installed a new red and white stripe pattern marking with a solar powered LED flashing sign on the side of the bridge,” he said.
“Then a truck came in and hit the bridge and brought down the sign which said, ‘be careful, low bridge’.
You can do all manner of things, but you can’t guard against stupidity.
Mr Shanahan said being one of the only major crossings in the area, the town became gridlocked after a direct hit.
“It’s actually not that funny when it happens — we can laugh about it now but oh my God, it causes so much disruption.”
Bridge’s danger days are numbered
The bridge’s days of cleaning up unsuspecting trucks are numbered, however, with a planned upgrade of the entire Bayswater rail precinct set to begin later this year.
“The upgrade that’s taking place there will include having a new look at the bridge and increasing the height, which I have to say with some degree of sadness,” said Mr Hynes.
PHOTO: A design render of the WA Government’s proposed upgrades to Bayswater train station. (Supplied: Public Transport Authority)
Mr Shanahan said the bridge had become synonymous with Bayswater’s identity, for better or for worse.
“Unfortunately, it’s probably our major tourist attraction at the moment, it’s what seems to draw most attention to this area,” he said.
Mr Hodder said he would probably miss the problematic bridge when it was gone.
“We love it and we hate it, it’s a bit of an icon of Baysie,” he said.
“We all recognise it, we know it as the Baysie bridge, we know it as where the trucks get stuck underneath it.
“We love it as a bit of identity for Bayswater in a way.”
PHOTO: The Bayswater rail bridge in 1969. (Supplied: State Library of Western Australia)
“It’s a little bit like the Berlin Wall,” Mr Hynes added.
“Perhaps we’ll have to save bits of the old bridge and say, ‘this was the bit that was hit by the truck in 2014’.
“It’s an icon, we should all be proud of it.”