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M20 bridge collapse: Alan Austen, 63, of Jedburgh Drive in Darlington appears in court charged with dangerous driving and criminal damage

By David Gazet

The lorry driver charged with causing £1.5 million of damage after a pedestrian footbridge fell onto the M20 has appeared in court.

Alan Austen, 63 and of Jedburgh Drive in Darlington, appeared before magistrates today charged with dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving and three counts of criminal damage after the structure was brought down at junction 4 (Leybourne) on August 27.

The crash, during a bank holiday, brought 170 tonnes of concrete onto the London-bound carriageway when the route was being used by millions of drivers.

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Alan Austen appeared in court over the collapse of a pedestrian footbridge onto the M20. Picture: Andy Jones
Alan Austen appeared in court over the collapse of a pedestrian footbridge onto the M20. Picture: Andy Jones
Alan Austen at a previous court appearance. Picture: Andy Jones
Alan Austen at a previous court appearance. Picture: Andy Jones

The incident sparked a major operation involving dozens of police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

Mr Austen spoke only to confirm his name when he appeared before Maidstone Magistrates' Court this morning. Mark Kateley, prosecuting, told the court there had been damage to the bridge, worth £1,500,000, a Hitachi excavator and a lorry truck and trailer worth together worth over £150,000.

Video: Alan Austen leaves Maidstone Magistrates' Court.

Mr Kateley added that 73-year-old motorcyclist Jim Shaw had been near the bridge when it was brought down and despite a lucky or miraculous escape had been left severely injured.

Referring the case to the crown court, David Mann, chairman of the bench said: "The bench agrees given the nature and seriousness of these offences it is not in the jurisdiction of the magistrates' court and will therefore be sent to the crown court."

Video: Bridge collapses over the M20

The next hearing will be at Maidstone Crown Court on March 17, where a plea will be entered. Austen was granted unconditional bail.

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