One in 24 local highway bridges is not suitable for transporting the heaviest vehicles

  • Local authorities have identified almost 3,100 highway bridges that cannot support the passage of 44-ton trucks
  • The municipalities also reported 14 ‘partial collapses’ of bridges in the last financial year
  • Some are deficient due to early design or deterioration over time and use

One in 24 road bridges in Britain is no longer adequate to carry the weight of the heaviest vehicles, a new review of the structures has highlighted.

Local authorities identified 3,090 bridges as ‘deficient’ at the end of last year, the RAC Foundation said.

This means that they are too weak to be used by 44-tonne trucks.

Many are subject to weight restrictions, while others are on more closely monitored or even reduced weight programs, due to structural problems related to their age or problems over the years.

Britain’s troubled bridges over land and water: A new report released last week says one in 24 local road bridges is unsuitable for carrying trucks weighing 44 tonnes, the heaviest vehicles on our roads.

The annual analysis of the condition of Britain’s highway bridges found that councils reported 14 “partial collapses” during the 2021/22 financial year.

They were in the local authority areas of Aberdeenshire, Barnet, County Durham, Lancashire, Nah-Eileanan an Iar, Shropshire, Tower Hamlets, Warwickshire, Conwy and Newport.

Devon has the poorest jumpers with 224, followed by Cheshire East (194), Essex (151), Somerset (128) and Suffolk (119).

Some are substandard because they were built to older design standards, while others have deteriorated with time and use.

These include Hammersmith Bridge in West London.

Identified cracks in the pedestals have led to motor vehicles being prohibited from using the 136-year-old cast-iron structure since April 2019.

The bridge was reopened for pedestrians and cyclists in 2021, but remained off-limits to cars and other vehicles.

The capital’s iconic bridge reopened for pedestrians and cyclists in 2021, but has remained off-limits to cars and other vehicles.

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The total of 3,090 bridges of lower quality than the 3,211 of the previous year.

Among them, local authorities said that ideally 2,506 of its failing bridges would be restored to full carrying capacity.

But budget constraints mean they anticipate only the necessary work to be done on 387 within the next five years.

The analysis was based on data provided by 196 municipalities in response to freedom of information requests and was carried out in partnership with Adept, a group representing heads of local authorities responsible for transport and other sectors.

The bridges included in the investigation range from major structures across estuaries to road sections at least 1.5 meters long that span culverts that carry water under the roadways.

RAC Foundation Director Steve Gooding said: “This latest study shows the scale of the challenge that local authorities are bravely facing to protect the critical road infrastructure we all depend on against the backdrop of enormous funding and resource pressures. “.

‘The numbers illustrate how important it is that significant sums of money are spent to tackle at least the highest priority work.

‘Whether it’s potholes or bridges, councils can continue to fix things for a limited time before bigger cracks literally start to appear in the road network.

‘Another key finding of the report is the need for local authorities to have a very accurate inventory of what they are responsible for.

“Attention to detail is critical in what, by any road user’s reckoning, should be considered critical infrastructure.”

Kevin Dentith, Vice President of Adept’s National Bridge Group, said: “Bridge owners have shown in the data an aspiration to reduce the number of substandard bridges by 81%.

“The data suggests that to achieve this will require government funding of £918 million, but there is currently a shortage of experienced engineers capable of taking on this work that will also need to be addressed.”

Councilor David Renard, Transport Spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: ‘Bridges, whether for rail, local roads or motorways, are a vital part of our transport infrastructure connecting communities and companies.

“Not all bridges are the responsibility of municipalities, but those that are are doing everything they can to ensure they are well maintained and withstand extreme weather conditions, such as those communities have been experiencing for much of the past few months.

“However, this is becoming increasingly challenging in the face of a backlog of almost £12bn to make our local roads up to par.”

When approached by the Government for comment on the report, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The Government is providing more than £5bn of investment in this Parliament to local authorities in England to support the maintenance of their road infrastructure. including repairing bridges and resurfacing roads throughout the country.’

The report comes just months after the British Parking Association warned that underground and multi-storey car parks could collapse under the weight of electric vehicles.

Electric cars, which weigh about twice as much as standard models, could cause “catastrophic” damage, according to a BPA review that concluded in December 2022.

He has urged local authorities to carry out urgent structural studies to ensure they are suitable for the increasing weight of the vehicles that use them.

Most of the country’s 6,000 underground and multi-story facilities were built according to a guideline based on the weight of popular 1976 cars, including the Ford Cortina Mk 3.

But the electric cars currently on the UK market are much bulkier. For example, Tesla’s best-selling Model 3 weighs 2.2 tons fully loaded, making it 50% heavier than a 1.4-ton Cortina.

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