The standards of local bridges across the country are declining, with the number of bridges that fully collapsed in the UK increasing by 70% last year.
2020 saw 10 local bridges collapsing completely, and in 2021 this number increased to 17. Of these 17 full collapses, 12 were in Dorset and 5 were in Denbighshire.
The number of substandard bridges also rose again in 2021 to reach 3,211, according to structural surveys.
It is estimated that the total cost to bring all 3,211 bridges back to acceptable standards would be as high as £1.16 billion.
The RAC, in collaboration with the National Bridges Group ADEPT, have surveyed over 196 local councils to identify the areas with the highest number of structural damage. The top 5 areas were:
|Local Authority||Number of bridges||Number of substandard bridges||Proportion of substandard bridges|
Devon has the highest number of damaged structures in the country with 229 of its bridges below national standards.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC, said: “Whilst the increase in substandard bridges year-on-year is not huge, the picture over the last five years looks more like flatlining than sustained improvement, and with the threat of more severe weather events linked to climate change that must be a worry for the overall resilience of our highway network.”
Council engineering experts warn that there will be a shortage of qualified staff to carry out inspections and bridge repairs.
Kevin Dentith, chair of the ADEPT group, said: “The incidence of bridge collapses that lead to personal injury and traffic disruption is thankfully low but unless more engineers and technicians are encouraged to join the industry and highway authorities receive appropriate funding from the Department for Transport we are at risk of seeing a higher number of bridge collapses than those identified in this year’s RAC Foundation survey.”