A bridge is a structure carrying the highway over a river, canal, railway, motorway, etc, or, carrying a railway, motorway, etc over the highway.

The council is the Highway Authority and the 'Bridge Authority' for the bridges owned by the council. The council owns and is responsible for around 80 highway bridges. There are also other bridge owners/authorities and the largest of these are the Highway Agency (trunk roads and motorway), Railtrack (railways), British Rail Property Board (disused railways), the Environment Agency (main rivers) and British Waterways Board (canals).

As a rule the bridge usually belongs to the organisation (or its successor) that had cause to need the bridge in the first place. Ownership of bridges has been transferred in some cases, such as when the responsibility for a route changes.

The council's bridges are inspected approximately every year and a programme of maintenance work is drawn up. Incidents of damage through vehicle collision, storm damage, or other causes are investigated as soon as possible. In the case of damage to bridges by vehicles, reporting of the vehicle details may mean it is possible for the council to claim the cost of the repairs to the bridge or culvert.

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Bridge strengthening

The maximum permitted weight of lorries was increased in February 2001 to 44 tonnes. All bridges have had to be assessed to see if they could cope with this increase safely.

Pending strengthening, public safety is maintained on those bridges assessed as weak by using temporary weight restrictions or other measures and restrictions.

Work carried out under the strengthening programme gives priority to principal road bridges. For substandard bridges on the non-principal road network, decisions are made whether to permanently weight restrict rather than strengthen. Each bridge is considered on its merits taking into account safety, economic and environmental factors.

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Further information

For further information please contact the Structural Engineering Manager:

020 8489 1761

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Page last updated:

February 2, 2023