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News » UK » Survey reveals escalating bridge maintenance backlog » published 10 Mar 2017

Survey reveals escalating bridge maintenance backlog

More than 3,000 council-maintained road bridges in Great Britain are substandard.

Analysis by the RAC Foundation has found that 3,203 structures over 1.5 metres in span are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes. Data was supplied by 199 of the 207 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. Many of these bridges have weight restrictions. Others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.

The 3,203 substandard bridges represent 4.4% (about 1 in 23) of the roughly 72,000 bridges to be found on the local road network. The number of substandard bridges is 35% greater than that estimated by the RAC Foundation to have been substandard two years earlier.

The 10 councils in Britain with the highest number of substandard bridges are:

Local Authority

Number of bridges

Number of substandard bridges

Proportion of substandard bridges

Devon

2,689

249

9%

Somerset

1,459

210

14%

Essex

1,567

160

10%

Northumberland

964

148

15%

Cornwall

1,008

127

13%

Suffolk

923

121

13%

Lancashire

1,476

93

6%

Cumbria

1,911

71

4%

Gloucestershire

961

69

7%

Cambridgeshire

878

64

7%

 

The 10 councils in Britain with the highest proportion of substandard bridges are:

Local Authority

Number of bridges

Number of substandard bridges

Proportion of substandard bridges

Slough

36

17

47%

Bristol

140

52

37%

Croydon

11

4

36%

Islington

6

2

33%

Middlesbrough

63

18

29%

Hammersmith and Fulham

4

1

25%

Kensington and Chelsea

4

1

25%

Blackpool

21

5

24%

Conwy

234

51

22%

Bracknell Forest

123

21

17%

 

If money was no object, then councils would ideally want to bring 2,110 of these back up to standard, the RAC Foundation said. However, budget restrictions mean councils only anticipate 416 bridges will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.

The one-off cost of bringing all the substandard bridges back up to perfect condition would be around £890m. This is the equivalent of £278,000 per structure.

The total cost of clearing the backlog of work on all bridges – including those that are substandard – is estimated at £3.9bn.

Councils are currently spending £447m a year on bridge maintenance.

The survey of local highways authorities was carried out with the help of the national bridges group of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economics, Planning & Transportation (ADEPT).

The RAC Foundation also received data from the bodies responsible for looking after Britain’s motorways and trunk roads and found the problem to much less significant here:

Authority

Number of bridges

Number of substandard bridges

Proportion of sub-standard bridges

Highways England

12,184

166

1%

Transport Scotland

2,440

33

1%

Welsh Assembly

1,263

48

4%

 

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “It’s the pothole backlog that normally hits the headlines but it is easy to forget all the other aspects of road maintenance that councils are involved in; from clearing ditches to cutting verges to maintaining bridges.

“In the face of growing traffic volumes and ageing infrastructure the danger is that without an adequate long-term funding settlement we will see more rather than fewer bridges with weight restrictions, with the backlog bill getting bigger all the time.”

 

 

MPU

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This article was published on 10 Mar 2017 (last updated on 13 Mar 2017).

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