We are responsible for the management of highway bridges, culverts and retaining walls that are over, under or adjacent to the highway. This includes rural footbridges on the public right of way network and often our older structures can be 'Listed buildings' or even 'Scheduled Ancient Monuments', for which formal consents are normally required when any works are undertaken.
Not all bridges and structures on the highway are the responsibility of the Local Authority. Other bodies that own bridges and structures include;
- Network Rail – structures associated with the ‘live’ railway
- Highways England – A5, A14, A45 (M1 Junction 15 to A14 Thrapston), A43 (M1 Junction 15a to M42), M45, M1
- Canal and River Trust – Grand Union Canal, Northampton Arm, Welford Arm
- Highways England Historical Railways Estate - is responsible for the historical railways estate (formerly known as the Burdensome Estate). This includes legacy bridges, abutments, tunnels, cuttings, viaducts and similar properties associated with closed railway lines, and sales.
- Private – non-public bodies
As the highway authority we have a duty of care to ensure that all structures on our network are safe and fit for purpose.
Inspection of bridges and structures
We undertake regular inspections of all assets that we are responsible for in line with current Codes of Practice. This includes special inspections in circumstances such as where structures have had collision damage. From our inspections, we develop and prioritise a forward programme of bridges and structures maintenance schemes to ensure safety and functionality.
Bridges and structures maintenance
We deliver steady state maintenance schemes and wholescale bridge replacements, along with strengthening works to keep our bridges and structures safe and operational.
All works are scheduled into a programme of works for delivery in the current or future financial year, based on the findings of the annual bridge inspection programmes.
We prioritise and recommend urgent repairs and maintenance works that are required on a risk-based approach and depending on the available budgets.
All works need to be treated in sympathy with the bridge environment. We try to maintain these efficiently with the minimum of disruption.
We review, assess and monitor the capacity of our structures, placing weight restrictions on those that are deemed substandard for current highway loadings. Weight restrictions are only introduced when strictly necessary.
Collision damage to bridge parapets
Collision damage is mainly caused by accidental vehicular impact, which often results in damage to bridge parapets and can, in certain circumstances, have disastrous consequences. Many older bridges have substandard road widths and alignments, both horizontally and vertically. Excessive vehicle speed is also often a factor in parapets being struck.
Where repairs cannot be immediately undertaken, interim arrangements will be used such as traffic management, temporary concrete safety barriers and fencing to prevent further collisions. Road closures are used as a 'last resort' where there is no suitable, safe alternative, traffic management as we recognise the disruption these create.
We monitor where bridge strikes occur and if we identify a particular pattern of frequent damage then a wider review of the area will be undertaken to look at preventative interventions.
Report an issue with one of our bridges or structures via Street Doctor.