More than 100 road bridges in Yorkshire are 'substandard,' new figures show


Over 3,000 council-owned bridges in Britain are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles on our roads, with more than 120 in Yorkshire.

Friday, 28th February 2020, 12:01 am More than 3,000 council-owned bridges in Britain are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles on our roads. Photo credit: Kevin Stuttard

The total estimated cost to bring all the substandard bridges back up to perfect condition is GBP1.12 billion, according to analysis of 2018/19 data by motoring research charity the RAC Foundation. Many of weaker bridges will be subject to weight restrictions, or written off altogether if the local authority decides decides they aren't repairing it. Devon has the highest number of substandard bridges at 241, followed by Essex (163), Somerset (153) and Cornwall (140).

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A cyclist climbs out of Swaledale over the rebuilt bridge.

Photo credit: Bruce Rollinson Yorkshire has 121, with Hull having 28 in need of attention, the highest number not up to standard in the region. There are 27 not up to scratch in the East Riding of Yorkshire, followed by Kirlees (15).

Philip Gomm, RAC Foundation head of communication, said despite the high figures of substandard bridges across Yorkshire it was vital the number was being recorded accurately. "Either this is a worrying picture of dozens of bridges that are not up to the job or actually these are councils which know exactly what state their structures are in and have put in appropriate restrictions to keep them open but safe," he said. "Worse than a substandard bridge is a substandard bridge that no one is aware of."

The collapsed bridge following heavy rainfall on Grinton Moors. Photo credit: SWNS The recent results are based on figures provided by 203 of Britain's 210 local highway authorities,which manage 71,505 bridges.

The report was carried out in partnership with Adept, a group representing local authority bosses responsible for transport and other sectors. There is an estimated maintenance backlog for Yorkshire council-owned road bridges coming in at a cost of GBP194 million, with Bradford coming in with the highest figure at GBP32 million. Bridges could be substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, or they may have deteriorated through age and use.

Many bridges have been affected by flooding and hit by debris carried along by rivers in recent weeks. Mr Gomm said the number of the structures in need of attention could rise in the aftermath of the recent deluge across the region.

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Kevin Dentith, Chair for the Adept national bridges group, added: "Alongside the misery recent rain and flooding has brought to householders and businesses, many highway authority bridge owners will be fearful of what they find when the waters recede. "The vast volumes of water - and the debris they carry with them - will have pummeled our road bridges, some of which are already in a fragile state.

"With every sign suggesting that these extreme weather events will become more common, it is inevitable that more money will be needed to keep our bridge stock open for traffic, and hence our towns and cities open for business." The total number of substandard bridges (3,061) has fallen by 4.2 per cent over the past 12 months, but as a collective local authorities say they would ideally want to bring 2,084 of them back to full carrying capacity. Budget constraints mean they anticipate that only 359 will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding described the conditions of road bridges as a "canary-in-a-coal-mine indicator for the health of the highway network as a whole".

He added: "While our survey shows a marginal year-on-year improvement, it still reveals that, while the number of structures highway authorities expect to bring up to standard in the next five years is in the hundreds, the number they'd like to restore to manage traffic demand is in the thousands.

"Highway authorities desperately need the money and the engineering expertise to monitor and ensure our highways - our most valuable publicly-owned asset - are properly maintained and kept open for business."

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