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Highways information [v]

Information on your highways.


The council currently has a structure stock of:

  • 88- bridges (spanning more than 1.5m)
  • 56 highways footbridges (over main roads or adjacent to fords or carrying class 6 highways)
  • 118 smaller culverts
  • Over 50% of the bridge stock is in excess of 100 years old
  • There are in excess of 600 highway retaining walls

Prioritisation of schemes

The softer issues - customer satisfaction, local policies, sustainability issues etc. Stakeholder consultation can contribute to this area.

Works programmes

Structures are maintained through four broad types of programme:

  1. Inspections
  2. Assessment / Reviews
  3. Strengthening works
  4. Structural maintenance

1.  Inspections

The Code of Practice for Maintenance of Highway Structures recommends a risk based approach to inspections of highway structures, however in line with industry best practice, general inspections are undertaken every two years, and principal  inspections (which are more detailed) every six years. We only carry out principal inspections of structures where this is considered appropriate due to their size, construction type or access restrictions, so this is limited to around 90 bridges, or 15 inspections per year. General inspections are funded from the Revenue budget; principal inspections are funded from the Capital budget. 

2.  Assessments / Reviews

Assessment of structures determines their load carrying capacity due to their design / construction. Over the past 20 years, we have carried out a systematic programme of assessing, and then strengthening where required, our highway bridges. All of the substandard bridges were prioritised so that the higher risk structures were strengthened first. 5% of our bridges do not meet current loading standards; these are regularly monitored while they are in a long term programme for strengthening.

Before any strengthening works are undertaken, the assessment of each bridge is reviewed, since over the past few years there have been several enhancements to the assessment codes. Some bridges will pass these revised assessments and can then be taken off the list. For other bridges, further, more detailed assessment is considered appropriate, and again some bridges will pass due to this work and can be taken off the substandard list. Currently we are working through about 8 assessment reviews per year.

If the condition of the critical, structural element of a bridge deteriorates significantly, then a review of its assessment should be carried out, even if the bridge previously passed.

3.  Strengthening works

The assessment review process gives us a set of bridges which still do not meet their required capacity. For these we consider their failure modes and level of usage. In some instances where failure would be incremental rather than catastrophic, and where usage by heavier vehicles is low, we can decide to continue with the existing bridge without carrying out strengthening works. The bridge will have a shorter life expectancy, but with ongoing maintenance and an enhanced inspection regime can still provide an adequate level of service. 

After all of these considerations, we are still left with a number of bridges which require some physical intervention - strengthening, deck replacement or whole reconstruction. 

4.  Structural maintenance

Bridges are currently designed to have a life of 120 years, but elements of them have shorter life cycles - bearings, expansion joints, waterproofing, parapets and paintwork are only designed to last for a shorter length of time. Replacement of these elements, and full or partial reconstruction of retaining walls, is classed as structural maintenance

Area Team led: Cyclical maintenance – risk based gully emptying and jetting (revenue funded) – see next page for more detail.

  • Area Team led: Reactive maintenance - emergency repair work such as gully/pipe replacement, jetting, root cutting, ditch clearing (revenue funded) 
  • Capital Team led: Planned maintenance works - repair, replacement or improvement schemes (capital funded)

Prioritisation of scheme

Schemes are prioritised by the Capital Infrastructure (Drainage Team) following investigations to establish the cause and the likely scope of the works needed to solve the problem. The team have also developed/built schemes in conjunction with the District Council supporting their Land Drainage responsibility. Smaller reactive projects are delivered by Area Teams.

Prioritisation is based on the risk of flooding to homes / business as well as the risks to road safety from standing water on roads – one our primary responsibilities under the Highways Act 1980 is to maintain the highway so that it is safe to use / fit for purpose. In addition to this our duties under the Flood Risk Management Act requires us to ensure we protect the public from flooding.

What has been done so far

Since the floods of July 2007 the Council has designated a significant amount of effort and expenditure into its drainage infrastructure. We have already spent some £15 million on capital drainage infrastructure projects across the county, along with £1 million a year on our gully emptying programme.  Many of the schemes that have been delivered are helping to protect the county from flooding and have improved our ability to deal with surface water during heavy rain events. 

Page updated: 18/10/2021 Page updated by: GCC

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