DRIVERS have been deterred from illegally trundling across a medieval bridge after cameras were installed to keep watch.

The number of lorry and truck drivers ignoring the weight restrictions on Newbridge, which runs over the River Thames between Abingdon and Witney, has been slashed since CCTV was put in place one year ago.

Oxfordshire County Council brought in the surveillance in October last year, to protect the fragile 13th-century structure and reduce the need for repairs.

Since then 628 overweight vehicles have been caught on camera flouting the rules - six of which have resulted in prosecution of drivers, resulting in fines and costs of £2,473 collectively.

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Just 358 vehicles were caught between January and October of this year, however, meaning the other 270 were captured in the space of just two months when the CCTV was first installed.

Between September 30 and October 12 this year, not a single overweight vehicle was caught on the bridge.

Oxford Mail:

Kate Davies, from the council's Trading Standards team, said: "We are committed to protecting this irreplaceable historic bridge, a key part of our transport infrastructure, and this technology allows us to do that.

"The bridge now needs less maintenance and fewer repairs, benefitting residents and council tax payers. Repair costs come from council resources."

While cameras were under test in September 2017, 90 overweight vehicles were caught on Newbridge, which is part of the A415.

The high-tech equipment uses optical character recognition to read vehicle registrations.

Vehicles are traced back to registered keepers by the county council’s Trading Standards team, and 515 warning letters have been issued to those found to have broken the restriction.

No vehicles that have a maximum gross weight of more than 18 tonnes are permitted to cross the bridge - a rule that has been in force since 2006.

Oxford Mail:

The council said it prefers to send out warning letters and the level of re-offending is low, but significant breaches and persistent offenders face prosecution.

A maximum fine of £1,000 can be levied by magistrates. The fines are not given to the county council, but the costs recovered from convicted drivers are fed straight back into enforcement.

The council said a 'significant number of cases' are currently under active investigation.

Newbridge sits between pubs The Maybush and Rose Revived, and is one of two oldest surviving bridges across the Thames.

It was built by Benedictine monks on the orders of King John, to improve access between the wool towns in South England and the Cotswold farms.

Drivers of heavy vehicles can find help with route planning by visiting and searching for 'weight restriction enforcement'.