IT WAS a Stagecoach bus full of school children that smashed into a bridge near Winchester, tearing off the roof.

Now, the company has become the first in the UK to introduce bridge alert technology across its fleet.

The £4million project will strengthen existing measures in place to prevent such collisions.

Running on a 'GreenRoad' system, the system will use GPS vehicle location data and mapping services to alert the driver to nearby low bridges.

If it determines that the bus is heading towards a low bridge, it will sound an in-cab alert, allowing a safe exit route.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Steve Brine in the House of Commons

Winchester's MP Steve Brine said: “In all the gloom right now, this is a bit of welcome good news. Stagecoach still have many questions to answer following the awful events of last year in Kings Worthy but they deserve credit for investing here.

"I think many parents and young people will warmly welcome this.”

Three children required surgery for potentially life-threatening injuries after a Stagecoach bus crashed into a bridge in Wellhouse Lane, Headbourne Worthy last September.

Another 12 pupils, all travelling to Henry Beaufort, suffered minor injuries when the top of the bus was ripped off.

All of those injured were youngsters aged between 11 and 16.

Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths added: "Everything we do starts with safety: for our customers, our people, pedestrians and other road users. Buses are already one of the safest forms of travel. But every year we invest millions of pounds in training our professional driving team and new technology to make our public transport operations even safer.

"Our country’s infrastructure includes many railway bridges designed in an era before modern transport vehicles went on the road, creating a safety risk.

"We have been working for many months with GreenRoad to design this important Low Bridge Alert enhancement to their proven safety technology, and are now implementing it to bolster the extensive measures we already have in place.

"We look forward to delivering the benefits from our investment across the country.”

Following a 16-week software development phase, the technology and associated speakers will be installed on Stagecoach buses across the country by summer 2021.

Network Rail’s chairman, Sir Peter Hendy, is backing Stagecoach's investment.

He said: “Bridge strikes are an unnecessary burden on our railway. They pose serious safety risks, cause hours of delays for rail passengers and road users and swallow up public funds which should be used on upgrading and improving our network.

“We’ve seen encouraging signs of incidents declining recently thanks to our engagement work with industry partners, drivers and operators, as well as the introduction of technology which assists drivers, but the transport sector has to continue working together to make bridge strikes a thing of the past.

“I commend Stagecoach on taking the initiative with the roll-out of this technology and I hope to see other operators take a similar proactive approach to tackling the issue in the near future.”