Thousands of road bridges in the UK are not up to standard, the RAC Foundation has revealed.

Analysis of data received from 204 of the 207 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales found that 3,441 structures over 1.5 metres in span are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles currently allowed on UK roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes.

The 3,441 bridges represent 4.6 per cent (around one in 22) of the roughly 74,000 bridges found on the local road network, which is a concerning jump on the 3,203 reported this time last year.

Many of the substandard bridges have weight restrictions, while others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.

Devon is home to the most below-par bridges, with 249 of its 3,867 bridges not able to accommodate Britain’s heaviest vehicles. That worked out at six per cent of all publicly accessible bridges.

Next was Somerset with 168 (11 per cent) and Essex with 160 (10 per cent).

However, Wigan boasted the highest proportion of substandard bridges with a whopping 63 per cent, while in the East London borough of Redbridge, all 25 of its bridges are below par.

Budget restrictions mean councils only anticipate 370 of these 3,441 bridges will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said the rise in the number of substandard bridges was unsurprising

“The road maintenance crisis faced by financially-beleaguered councils is often reported in terms of potholes to be filled but this research hints at the wide spectrum of things needing attention, including blocked gulleys, overgrown verges and, of course, fragile bridges,” he commented.

Mr Gooding pointed out that the cost of bringing the bridges up to scratch was increasing with the estimated cost of clearing the bridge maintenance backlog rising by 30 per cent or £1 billion in total.

Ben Robb, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, added: “Council budgets are being squeezed and transport operators should be wise to which structures are off-limits to their vehicles.”

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