More than 2,300 council-maintained road bridges in Britain are sub-standard and incapable of carrying some of the heaviest vehicles, new research has revealed.
The news comes after concrete in one of the UK’s busiest bridges, the Hammersmith Flyover, had deteriorated so badly the structure was in danger of collapse and had to be shut down four years ago.
Worryingly due to a lack of funding in local government, the RAC Foundation, which carried out the research, suggests many of these structures could be left to ‘managed decline’.
The RAC said that while some of the bridges will be sub-standard because they were built to earlier design standards, others will have ‘deteriorated through age and use’.
It estimates £328m would be needed to bring the total 2,375 sub-standard bridges up to perfect condition - equivalent of £138,000 per bridge.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said shutting down the Hammersmith Flyover caused ‘major congestion and was a graphic illustration of what could happen if our national infrastructure is not adequately maintained’.
‘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.’
The analysis is based both on FOI requests sent to all 207 highways authorities in Great Britain, of which 193 replied in useable form, and a smaller survey of 50 councils carried out with council directors’ body ADEPT.
Liz Kirkham, chairman of the ADEPT Bridges Group, said: ‘The ADEPT Bridges Group works hard to support local authority bridge managers in maintaining these vital links in the highways network, and is concerned that further reductions in available funding will only make their job more difficult.’
The total 2,375 bridges over 1.5m in span represents 3% of the estimated 71,000 local road bridges in Britain.
When a bridge is sub-standard councils have four basic options. They can:
1) Continue to monitor the structure
2) Manage the deterioration
3) Impose weight or traffic restrictions
4) Repair it