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Bridge maintenance backlog grows by a third – £6.7 billion needed to clear workload

8 January 2019

A survey of local highways authorities, carried out by the RAC Foundation with the help of ADEPT's National Bridges Group, shows that the one-off cost of clearing the total maintenance backlog for the near 72,000 council-managed road bridges in Great Britain has increased by a third.

Analysis by the RAC Foundation of data for the 2017-18 financial year shows that an estimated £6.7 billion is needed to carry out all the work that would be required on the tens of thousands of local authority bridges (defined as structures over 1.5m in span). This is up from £5 billion a year earlier (2016-17).

The study is based on data provided by 200 (out of a total of 207) councils across England, Scotland and Wales. Between them the 200 councils manage 71,652 bridges, of which 3,177 (4.4% of the total) are categorised as ‘substandard’.

Substandard means unable to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes. Many of the substandard bridges are subject to weight restrictions. Others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.

The proportion (4.4%) of substandard bridges is in line with that reported in 2016-17 (4.6% – 3,441 out of 74,005 bridges – based on data from 204 local authorities).

Between them, councils say they would ideally want to bring 2,026 (64%) of the 3,177 substandard bridges back up to full carrying capacity. However, budget restrictions mean they anticipate that only 343 of these will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.

More details, including a full breakdown by local authority, can be found on the RAC Foundation website (here).