More than 3,000 GB road bridges are substandard 10 Mar 2017

Number of substandard crossings on the rise

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

Analysis of data received from 199 of the 207 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales found that 3,203 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.

Many of these bridges have weight restrictions. Others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.

The 3,203 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 ten 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 ten 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%

A full list of councils is available at the end of this press release, together with top ten tables for England, Scotland and Wales.

If money was no object, then councils would ideally want to bring 2,110 of these back up to standard.

However, budget restrictions mean councils only anticipate 416 of these 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 £890 million. 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 £3.9 billion.

Councils are currently spending just an eighth of that - an estimated £447 million - per year maintaining their entire bridge stock.

When the local authorities were asked what the biggest challenges they expected to face in the next 10 years in maintaining their bridges; “funding” and “skill shortages” were commonly cited.

The survey of local highways authorities was carried out with the help of the National Bridges Group of ADEPT (the Association of Directors of Environment, Economics, Planning and Transportation).

The RAC Foundation also received data from the bodies responsible for looking after Britain’s strategic roads (motorways and some major A roads):

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.”

Liz Kirkham, chairman of the ADEPT Bridges Group, said:

“The ADEPT Bridges group supports Local Authority Bridge Managers throughout the country and was pleased to work with the RAC Foundation on an important issue that can get overlooked. The figures identified by the RAC Foundation survey present a true picture of the funding backlog our members face.

"The problem is only compounded by the skills shortage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), which is having a serious impact across all engineering and manufacturing sectors. A growing number of substandard and restricted bridges that are not adequately maintained affect journey times and for rural communities in particular have an economic impact, creating barriers to growth."

ENDS

Contact:

Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

philip.gomm@racfoundation.org | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: www.racfoundation.org  

GB DATA

This is a link to the table giving substandard bridge data for all councils in Great Britain:

www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_GB_2015-16.pdf  

ENGLISH DATA

This is a link to the table giving substandard bridge data for councils in England only:

www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_Eng_2015-16.pdf

The ten councils in England 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 ten councils in England 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%

Bracknell Forest

123

21

17%

Reading

96

16

17%

 

SCOTTISH DATA

This is a link to the table giving substandard bridge data for councils in Scotland only:

www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_Scot_2015-16.pdf

The ten councils in Scotland with the highest number of substandard bridges are:

Local Authority

Number of bridges

Number of substandard bridges

Proportion of substandard bridges

Aberdeenshire

1,350

59

4%

Perth and Kinross

915

55

6%

East Ayrshire

381

40

10%

Argyll & Bute

900

34

4%

South Lanarkshire

741

24

3%

Stirling

397

22

6%

Glasgow City

181

20

11%

Fife

389

19

5%

East Lothian

188

11

6%

Dumfries & Galloway

737

10

1%

 

The ten councils in Scotland with the highest proportion of substandard bridges are:

Local Authority

Number of bridges

Number of substandard bridges

Proportion of substandard bridges

Glasgow City

181

20

11%

East Ayrshire

381

40

10%

Perth and Kinross

915

55

6%

East Lothian

188

11

6%

Stirling

397

22

6%

Fife

389

19

5%

Aberdeenshire

1,350

59

4%

Falkirk

208

8

4%

East Renfrewshire

130

5

4%

Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles)

183

7

4%

 

WELSH DATA

This is a link to the table giving substandard bridge data for councils in Wales only:

www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_Wales_2015-16.pdf

The ten councils in Wales with the highest number of substandard bridges are:

Local Authority

Number of bridges

Number of substandard bridges

Proportion of substandard bridges

Powys

1,336

62

5%

Carmarthenshire

798

55

7%

Conwy

234

51

22%

Denbighshire

280

20

7%

Monmouthshire

398

19

5%

Cardiff

102

14

14%

Rhondda

213

11

5%

Gwynedd

631

10

2%

Bridgend

175

9

5%

Caerphilly

305

9

3%

 

The ten councils in Wales with the highest proportion of substandard bridges are:

Local Authority

Number of bridges

Number of substandard bridges

Proportion of substandard bridges

Conwy

234

51

22%

Cardiff

102

14

14%

Merthyr Tydfil

37

5

14%

Denbighshire

280

20

7%

Carmarthenshire

798

55

7%

Rhondda

213

11

5%

Bridgend

175

9

5%

The Vale of Glamorgan

81

4

5%

Monmouthshire

398

19

5%

Torfaen

189

9

5%

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