Number of substandard bridges rises19 Jan 2018

Thousands of bridges have weight restrictions

Almost 3,500 council-maintained road bridges in Great Britain are substandard.

Analysis of data for the 2016-17 financial year – received from 204 of the 207 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales – found that 3,441 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 3,441 bridges represent 4.6% (about 1 in 22) of the roughly 74,000 bridges to be found on the local road network.

The number of substandard bridges is slightly higher than the 3,203 identified a year previously.

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 3,867 249 6%
Somerset 1,487 168 11%
Essex 1,660 160 10%
Cornwall 1,006 144 14%
Suffolk 924 128 14%
Northumberland 965 123 13%
Lancashire 1,473 104 7%
Wigan 158 100 63%
Cumbria 1,700 70 4%
Gloucestershire 962 69 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
Redbridge 25 25 100%
Wigan 158 100 63%
Hammersmith and Fulham 4 2 50%
Lewisham 36 17 47%
Blackpool 21 9 43%
Bristol 140 52 37%
Haringey 36 11 31%
Newport 50 15 30%
Islington 7 2 29%
Kensington and Chelsea 4 1 25%

 

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 2,077 of the substandard bridges back up to standard.

However, budget restrictions mean councils only anticipate 370 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 £934 million – equivalent to £271,000 per structure.

The total cost of clearing the backlog of work on all bridges – including those that are substandard – is estimated at £5 billion, up sharply (28%) on the estimate of £3.9 billion a year earlier.

At the same time, the estimated amount of money councils are spending annually on maintaining their entire bridge stock is £367 million, just a fourteenth of the backlog total and down on the £447 million spent in the previous year.

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) with the data collected in the autumn of 2017, a year on from a similar exercise.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“It is unwelcome, if unsurprising, news that the number of substandard local authority bridges appears to have risen slightly.

“The road maintenance crisis faced by financially-beleaguered councils is often reported in terms of potholes to be filled but this research hints at the wide spectrum of things needing attention, including blocked gulleys, overgrown verges and, of course, fragile bridges.

“The really worrying thing about this data is that the costs and affordability of fixing the problems are moving in opposite directions – while the estimated cost of clearing the bridge maintenance backlog has risen by 30%, an increase of a billion pounds, the amount councils are spending to maintain the total bridge stock has fallen by 18% year-on-year, from £447 million to £367 million.

“As council budgets continue to be squeezed by the growing pressure of social care these numbers are a stark illustration of the gloomy consequences for the quality and integrity of our local networks.”

Graham Cole, deputy chairman of the ADEPT National Bridges Group, said:

“Councils understand that bridges don’t just cross obstacles they also link communities together and help to unlock economic growth. As such they are very valuable assets that deserve ongoing care and maintenance by skilled and qualified people.

“The increase in the headline number of reported substandard bridges is probably due to the use of more accurate data. Councils continue to effectively manage their bridges, including substandard bridges, in accordance with national guidelines to maintain the safety of the public.

“However, this increasing number does create a pressure on budgets and an increase in funding would help to reduce this problem and maintain the availability of the highway, where appropriate.”

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:

https://www.racfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_GB_2016-17.pdf

 

ENGLISH DATA

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

https://www.racfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_England_2016-17.pdf

 

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

Local authority Number of bridges Number of substandard bridges Percentage of substandard bridges
Devon 3,867 249 6%
Somerset 1,487 168 11%
Essex 1,660 160 10%
Cornwall 1,006 144 14%
Suffolk 924 128 14%
Northumberland 965 123 13%
Lancashire 1,473 104 7%
Wigan 158 100 63%
Cumbria 1,700 70 4%
Gloucestershire 962 69 7%

 

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

 

Local authority Number of bridges Number of substandard bridges Percentage of substandard bridges
Redbridge 25 25 100%
Wigan 158 100 63%
Hammersmith and Fulham 4 2 50%
Lewisham 36 17 47%
Blackpool 21 9 43%
Bristol 140 52 37%
Haringey 36 11 31%
Islington 7 2 29%
Kensington and Chelsea 4 1 25%
Barking and Dagenham 13 3 23%

 

 

SCOTTISH DATA

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

https://www.racfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_Scotland_2016-17.pdf

 

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

Local authority Number of bridges Number of substandard bridges Percentage of substandard bridges
Aberdeenshire 1,293 63 5%
Perth and Kinross 873 48 5%
East Ayrshire 381 41 11%
Highland 2,224 41 2%
Argyll & Bute 900 28 3%
Scottish Borders 1,201 26 2%
South Lanarkshire 771 23 3%
Glasgow City 182 20 11%
Moray 376 18 5%
Fife 390 17 4%

 

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

Local authority Number of bridges Number of substandard bridges Percentage of substandard bridges
Dundee City 25 3 12%
Glasgow City 182 20 11%
East Ayrshire 381 41 11%
East Lothian 188 11 6%
Perth and Kinross 873 48 5%
Aberdeenshire 1,293 63 5%
Moray 376 18 5%
Fife 390 17 4%
Falkirk 213 8 4%
Argyll & Bute 900 28 3%

 

 

WELSH DATA

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

https://www.racfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/RAC_Foundation_Bridge_Maintenance_Wales_2016-17.pdf

 

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

Local Authority Number of bridges Number of substandard bridges Percentage of substandard bridges
Carmarthenshire 798 62 8%
Powys 1,335 62 5%
Conwy 295 60 20%
Denbighshire 161 36 22%
Monmouthshire 400 22 6%
Gwynedd 631 17 3%
Newport 50 15 30%
Rhondda 203 14 7%
Cardiff 112 13 12%
Swansea 192 11 6%

 

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

Local authority Number of bridges Number of substandard bridges Percentage of substandard bridges
Newport 50 15 30%
Denbighshire 161 36 22%
Conwy 295 60 20%
Merthyr Tydfil 37 5 14%
Cardiff 112 13 12%
Carmarthenshire 798 62 8%
Rhondda 203 14 7%
Caerphilly 117 8 7%
Swansea 192 11 6%
Monmouthshire 400 22 6%