Almost a dozen bridges are still substandard in Bedford after a year

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It was the same as amount last year

Bedford had almost 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.

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Out of 236 bridges in the area, Bedford council identified 11 which were unable to carry the heaviest vehicles regularly using highways in 2021, figures from the RAC Foundation show.

In Bedford, 11 bridges were found to be below standard - the same number as last yearIn Bedford, 11 bridges were found to be below standard - the same number as last year
In Bedford, 11 bridges were found to be below standard - the same number as last year

This means 5% of bridges managed by the council were deemed unfit for purpose – and is the same amount as this time last year.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “The funding provided by the government to Bedford Borough Council and other local authorities across the country to maintain roads, pavements, bridges and other highways infrastructure is a small fraction of what is needed.

“To maintain the quality of our highways for residents, Bedford Borough Council provide significant additional funding every year and even then we’re unable to meet the investment required.”

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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.

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.

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"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.

The figures also show Bedford council intends to return one substandard bridge to full carrying capacity in the next five years.

The council said seven bridges would ideally be brought up to scratch over this period if it did not face budget limitations.