Britain’s bridges feeling the strain

Almost 2,400 council-maintained road bridges in Great Britain are sub-standard, according to RAC research.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:“Highways maintenance doesn’t start and end with filling in potholes though that in itself is a big enough job. Another key responsibility for councils is to keep their highways bridges up to scratch.”

Data collected by the RAC Foundation found that some 2,375 structures over 1.5m in span are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes.

These 2,375 bridges represent three percent of the estimated 71,000 local road bridges in Britain. Some of the bridges will be sub-standard because they were built to earlier design standards, others will have deteriorated through age and use.

The RAC Foundation estimates that it would cost a total of £328 million to bring the 2,375 sub-standard bridges up to perfect condition. That is the equivalent of £138,000 per bridge. If councils had enough money to carry out the work local authorities say they would prioritise 30% of the sub-standard structures for repair in the next five years.

The information used by the RAC Foundation for its calculations came from a mix of FOI requests and a survey carried out by the National Bridges Group of ADEPT (the Association of Directors of Environment, Economics, Planning and Transportation).

Gooding continued: “Councils are doing their utmost to keep their structures inspected but where they find fault the price of repair can bust the hard-pressed maintenance budget. We hope the Chancellor has this in mind as he completes his Spending Review calculations this month.”

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