13th April 2021

Llanelli Online News

Llanelli's First For Hyperlocal News

Council insist that ‘substandard’ bridges are safe

CARMARTHENSHIRE has the third highest number of substandard bridges of Wales’s 22 local authorities, but council chiefs have insisted that all of them are safe.

The county has the second largest length of road network in Wales and therefore more bridges.

It said it had 55 substandard bridges out of 799, in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Substandard was defined in terms of capacity or weight restrictions.

Councillor Hazel Evans, executive board member for environment, said: “Fewer than 7% of these (799 bridges) fall below the standard to support vehicle weights of 44 tonnes.

“But it is important to note that all bridges are safe — some will have weight restrictions placed on them due to their original design, as many of them were designed and built before the increased weight limit was introduced on roads in the UK in 2001.”

She added: “Structures continue to be upgraded subject to available funding.”

In 2017/18 the council carried out 323 general bridge inspections, and nine structural reviews. It said 10 bridges were expected to return to full load capacity in the next five years, and that all 55 would if money wasn’t an issue.

The maintenance backlog for the 799 bridges is just over £10.3 million. The council spent just over £520,000 maintain them in 2017/18.

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Conwy had the highest number of substandard bridges in Wales, with 63. Bridgend had the lowest number, with nine.

The RAF Foundation, which asked councils in Wales, England and Scotland about their bridges, said the overall maintenance backlog had risen to £6.7 billion from £5 billion a year previously.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said establishing the condition of highway bridges was a “litmus test for the condition of our road network”.

He said: “While we should draw some comfort from the good knowledge highway authorities have about the strength and structural integrity of their bridges, the fact is that many thousands are subject to enhanced monitoring, speed and weight restrictions, and the cost of bringing them up to scratch is continuing to mount.”

Carmarthenshire Council arranged specialists to inspect several bridges after Storm Callum last October.

Martin Tett, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, which representing 370 councils in England and Wales, claimed the study “underlines the chronic need for more investment in existing local roads.”

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