Councils warn of a ‘chronic’ need for more investment in local roads as survey reveals over 3,000 road bridges are ‘substandard’.
A survey of local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales by the RAC Foundation has revealed 3,203 structures over 1.5m in span are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles on the roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes.
This figure represents 4.4% — about 1 in 23 — of the roughly 72,000 bridges to be found on the local road network and is 35% greater than the RAC estimated would be ‘substandard’ two years ago.
The one-off cost of bringing all the substandard bridges back up to perfect condition would be around £890m, the RAC reported. 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 £3.9bn.
However, councils are currently spending just an eighth of that - an estimated £447m - per year maintaining their entire bridge stock.
The survey, which received responses from 199 of the 207 local highway authorities, revealed ‘funding’ and ‘skill shortages’ were the biggest problems cited.
‘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,’ warned Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation.
Cllr Martin Tett, Local Government Association (LGA) transport spokesman, said this survey ‘underlines the chronic need for more investment in local roads’.
He also highlighted the disparity between funding for national and local roads, and warned it put the countries businesses at a ‘competitive disadvantage’.
‘Over the remaining years of the decade the Government will invest more than £1.1m per mile in maintaining national roads - which make up just 3% of all total roads.
‘This level of investment contrasts starkly with the £27,000 per mile investment available to councils in maintaining local roads, which are controlled by councils and make up 97% of England's road network.’