Shropshire Star

Concern for Shropshire's crumbling bridges that need £30 million in repairs

Around £40 million needs to be spent on bridges in Shropshire, after new figures found that 22 are classed as substandard.

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Many bridges in Shropshire need repairs. This is The Dinham Bridge over the River Teme.

Figures from the RAC Foundation show that of the 780 bridges in Shropshire, 17 were discovered to be of substandard condition last year.

Substandard bridges are those that are either too weak to carry 40-tonne vehicles or those with a weight restriction for environmental reasons such as a narrow bridge or narrow approach roads.

Shropshire Council has estimated it will cost £30 million to repair the substandard road bridges but the authority is only going to be able to return two to good condition in the next five years.

In Telford & Wrekin, five of the 269 bridges in the authority area were also identified as substandard last year, according to the figures.

Telford & Wrekin Council says the cost to bring the bridges back to good condition is estimated to be around £10 million and the council is unlikely to be able to fix any of them in the next five years.

A spokesperson for Telford & Wrekin Council, said: “Telford & Wrekin Council manage 269 bridge structures across the borough with regular inspections taking place in accordance with industry standards – typically every two years.

“The council has invested over £7 million into maintaining bridges, retaining walls, culverts and other structures in the last four years despite a £1m reduction in funding from the DfT each year for the last two years.

“The structures identified in this survey are safe, fit for purpose and managed based on condition and use.”

According to the RAC Foundation's figures, there were 3,090 bridges classed as substandard across the UK in 2022 – accounting for 4.3 per cent of the total 71,925 bridges in the country.

The figures are down slightly from the 3,211 substandard bridges reported in 2021 (4.5 per cent).

The figures come from analysis carried out by the RAC Foundation with the help of the National Bridges Group of ADEPT (the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport).

The analysis is based on responses to Freedom of Information requests made by the RAC Foundation in December 2022 to 207 local highways authorities.

While there were no collapsed bridges reported across Great Britain last year, there were 14 partial collapses including one in Shropshire.

The RAC Foundation said councils can only continue to "patch things up before bigger cracks literally start to appear" in road infrastructure.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said the figures reveal the challenge councils are wrestling with to protect critical road infrastructure.

"The numbers illustrate how important it is for significant sums of money to be spent tackling at least the higher priority work," Mr Gooding added.

"Whether it is potholes or bridges there is only so long that councils can continue to patch things up before bigger cracks literally start to appear in the road network."

Areas with the highest number of substandard bridges were Devon with 224, Cheshire East with 194 and Essex with 151.

David Renard, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association said bridges are a vital part of the UK's transport infrastructure.

He added: “Not all bridges are the responsibility of councils, but for those that are, they are doing their best to ensure they are well maintained and withstand extreme weather, the like of which communities have been experiencing for much of the last few months.

"However, this is becoming increasingly challenging in the face of a backlog of nearly £12 billion to bring our local roads up to scratch.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “The Government is providing more than £5 billion of investment over this Parliament to local authorities across England to support the maintenance of their local highway infrastructure, including the repair of bridges and the resurfacing of roads up and down the country.”