THE director of the haulage firm whose lorry smashed into a low railway bridge has apologised but has claimed a warning sign on the approach failed to work.

Jason Ellen, of Ellens Express Transport Ltd, has defended his driver following the incident, which saw Wootton Bassett Road closed for several hours last Tuesday morning as the 32-tonne truck got wedged under the Running Horse Bridge.

The 14ft 9ins, or 4.5m, bridge has become notorious for the number of drivers who have misjudged the height and the black and yellow warning beam bears the marks of many previous challengers.

The driver, who has not been identified, was new to driving articulated lorries.

He had mistakenly recorded the height of the trailer as 4.275m rather than 4.725m and had also taken a shortcut to try to beat traffic on Great Western Way.

But, during an interview with bosses, he reported that while he thought he was well under the restriction, the sign that is supposed to illuminate to alert drivers to the upcoming bridge did not indicate that he should turn into Rushy Platt.

Swindon Council has stated the sign is in good working order and has not needed any repairs.

Jason, 41, who started the Elgin Industrial Estate-based firm in 2003, said: “We apologise for any inconvenience to the public caused by the incident last week and we will work to ensure it does not happen again.

“While we accept the responsibility lies with our driver, I am concerned about his report that the sign was not working. He had taken a shortcut because Great Western Way was busy.

“He understood the height of the vehicle as 4.275m high and so he preceded with his chosen route as the electronic height indicator warning sign on the Wootton Bassett Road did not illuminate to inform him his vehicle was over height, or warn him not to proceed and for him to turn left before the bridge to avoid a collision.

“The over height warning system would have sounded alarm bells, thus avoiding the collision with the bridge.

“I have known the driver for a couple of years and he has an exemplary record.”

Recovery of the vehicle cost the firm, which runs 10 lorries, about £4,500.

With the loss of revenue from the spilled delivery and the insurance claim, Jason said he expected the bill to amount to about £50,000.

A spokesman for the council said: “As far as we are concerned, the sign is and was working. It has never needed to be repaired. It works with a laser that triggers the sign when something, such as a trailer, breaks it.

“Irrespective of this there are several signs in the lead up to the bridge, which itself has a warning sign on it and a large black and yellow beam.”