Lorry driver accused of causing motorway bridge collapse chaos in England

A lorry driver has appeared in court accused of causing more than £1.5m (€1.75m) of damage following the collapse of a motorway bridge on the M20 during last August's bank holiday weekend.

The bridge fell after a wheeled excavator and dumper being transported by Alan Austen, 63, on the back of a lorry struck it between junctions four and three on the London-bound carriageway in Kent.

No-one was killed but Jim Shaw, 73, of Thamesmead, south-east London, suffered three broken ribs after he came off his motorbike to avoid the fallen bridge.

Gridlock was also caused on one of the busiest weekends of last year. Austen, 63, was summonsed by Kent Police in January to appear at Maidstone Magistrates' Court accused of dangerous driving.

Alan Austen arriving at Maidstone Magistrates Court. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Austen, of Jedburgh Drive, Darlington, County Durham, also appeared on Friday accused of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and three counts of criminal damage.

Prosecutor Mark Kateley told the court around £1.5m (€1.75m) of damage was caused to the bridge, £118,000 (€137,000) damage to the Daf truck and trailer and £35,107 (€40,923) damage to the Hitachi wheeled excavator and yellow dumper.

Mr Kateley said "luckily or miraculously" the motorcyclist survived with only broken ribs. He added that the level of damage caused required the case to be sent to the crown court.

No pleas were entered, and magistrates sent the case to Maidstone Crown Court for a hearing on March 17. Austen was granted unconditional bail.

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