Almost half of the bridges on England’s motorways and A-roads are in a poor or very poor condition, it is claimed.
Evidence of damage or defects have been found in 4,000 out of around 9,000 bridges and large culverts, according to Highways England data released under freedom of information laws.
Some 858 had at least one crucial section in a ‘very poor condition’ that could put them at risk of failure, The Times reported.
The revelations will fuel concerns over the state of Britain’s road infrastructure.
Almost half of the bridges on England’s motorways and A-roads are in a poor or very poor condition, it is claimed. Pictured: Hammersmith Bridge was closed for safety reasons on November 26, causing the Oxford versus Cambridge boat race to be relocated outside of London for the first time since World War Two
Highways England last night insisted that a rating of ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ does not mean that a structure is unsafe.
They said the overall condition of structures has improved over the last five years and that £1.5billion has been earmarked for maintenance up to 2025 - £200million more than in 2015-2020.
However, critics said the findings are cause for concern.
Matt Rodda, the shadow roads minister, told The Times: ‘It is a major safety concern and real failing of this government that so much of the nation’s vital infrastructure is in such poor condition.
‘Bridges are a critical part of the functioning of any country and it is alarming that so many have fallen into disrepair in the UK.’
Highways England’s chief engineer Mike Wilson said: ‘Our roads connect the country and every day millions of people rely on our structures to get safely to their destination.
‘All our structures are safe and regularly inspected. A rating of “poor” or “very poor” does not mean that a structure is unsafe; it is simply a way of recording a visual inspection, such as the condition of the paint, to allow us to consider the future maintenance requirements.
Hammersmith Bridge - which is not owned or maintained by Highways England - is not expected to re-open to traffic until 2027, four years later than planned
‘We carry out more than 10,000 inspections a year looking at a range of measures from the condition of the paint through to the integrity of the materials.
'Considering all these assessments together helps us assess the overall maintenance needs and reduces the likelihood of emergency repairs, meaning the majority of our maintenance can be planned to minimise disruption.’
The revelations follow the closure of Hammersmith Bridge after years of neglect.
The West London crossing - which is not owned or maintained by Highways England - is not expected to re-open to traffic until 2027, four years later than planned.
The fiasco has attracted international ridicule and fuelled concern over the state of Britain’s crumbling road infrastructure.