Peterborough had more than a dozen substandard bridges unfit for the heaviest vehicles on its roads at the end of 2021, new figures show.
The RAC Foundation said the threat of more severe weather due to climate change could lead to dangerous collapses on Great Britain's highways and has urged councils to address unsuitable bridges.
Out of 272 bridges in the area, Peterborough council identified 13 which were unable to carry the heaviest vehicles regularly using highways – including lorries up to 44 tonnes – in 2021, figures from the RAC Foundation show.
Which bridges were not able to carry heavy vehicles?
Lolham Bridge No.6 - Road Bridge - King Street, Lolham
Lolham Bridge No.1 - Road Bridge - King Street, Lolham
Mill Road Railway - Road Bridge - Mill Lane
Water End, Maholm - Road Bridge - Stamford Road, Marholm
Northborough Viaduct - Road Bridge - Lincoln Road, Northborough
North Drain Bridge - Road Bridge - Lincoln Road, Northborough
Orton Culvert (Box) – Culvert - Oundle Road, near Ham Lane
South Drain, Cowpit - Road Bridge - North Fen Road
Northborough Road – Culvert - Junction of Church Street, Peakirk Road
Gunthorpe Road - Road Bridge - Gunthorpe Road (Lowther Gardens)
Paston Ridings - Road Bridge - Paston Ridings between junctions of Witham Way and Pittneys
Waterworks Lane - Road Bridge - Waterworks Lane
Bainton Green Culvert – Culvert - King Street
Why might bridges be deemed substandard?
Across Great Britain, local authorities assessed 3,211 substandard bridges at the end of last year – up from 3,105 the year before and the highest number since 2017.
It means 4.5% of bridges nationally are deemed unsuitable and it is estimated it would cost £4.2 billion to restore them.
Bridges may be deemed substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, while others have deteriorated through age and use.
Many are subject to weight restrictions, while others are under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.
The national bridges group of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport has urged the Department for Transport to invest in repairing bridges or face the risk of seeing more collapses than identified in the RAC Foundation figures.
Councils reported 17 complete bridge collapses in 2021 – 12 in Dorset and five in Denbighshire.
A further 37 partially collapsed.
Will any of the 13 bridges ever be able to carry full loads?
The figures also show Peterborough council intends to return four substandard bridges to full carrying capacity in the next five years – but six bridges would ideally be brought up to scratch over this period if it did not face budget limitations.
These bridges include Gunthorpe Road, Northborough Viaduct and North Drain Bridge. Waterworks Lane has been addressed and is awaiting final certification of capacity.
A Peterborough City Council spokesperson said: “All off Peterborough’s structures will continue to be inspected via regular general and principal inspections in accordance with national standards to ensure they remain managed and fit for purpose.”
£5 billion to be invested into new roads
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "We are providing more than £5 billion of investment over 2020 to 2025 for highways maintenance to local highways authorities across England, including for the repair and maintenance of bridges.
"It is up to councils to decide how they use highways maintenance funding, based on their own needs and priorities."
The RAC Foundation analysis is based on data provided by 196 councils in response to freedom of information requests.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "Even the failure of the shortest of these structures could mean a five-foot long gap in the carriageway, and even on relatively minor roads that can still be a headache, causing disruption and possibly a long diversion.”
Councils across Great Britain said they would fix 2,374 (74%) bridges without budget restrictions, but just 379 (12%) are anticipated to be restored within the next half a decade.