A high-speed train derailment was avoided last week after a Tesco HGV struck a bridge in Plymouth, thanks to a “quick-acting” member of the public calling the emergency services.

In a House of Lords debate following the incident, Baroness Watkins said the outcome could have been much more serious when the supermarket lorry struck a railway bridge connecting Cornwall with the rest of the country on 30 August.

Network Rail said the collision caused “bank holiday misery for thousands of travellers” and that the HGV was wedged in place for more than 24 hours before being removed the following day.

It prompted Great Western Railway to criticise HGV drivers for not taking enough care on the roads and that the circumstances were “entirely avoidable”.

Baroness Watkins said: “Without the quick-acting response of a local resident calling the emergency phone number by the bridge in Plymouth, a high-speed derailment was highly likely.

Read more

“I went to visit the site the day after it happened. As Plymouth had just had a very severe event associated with a fire alarm, I am delighted that nobody was hurt in this incident.

“However, there must be more that we can do.”

Transport minister Baroness Vere said the number of bridge strikes was reducing in number and that the senior traffic commissioner had written to her explaining that drivers and operators involved in incidents could face suspension or licence revocation.

“The government do take this matter very seriously,” she added.

A spokesman for Tesco said: “We are working with the logistics partner whose vehicle was involved in this regrettable incident to see what lessons can be learned to prevent similar incidents in future.”

• An HGV driver on the M6 in Cheshire died after his vehicle collided with a railway bridge between junctions 17 and 18 just after 8am on 7 September. Police said they were keen to hear from anyone who witnessed the collision.