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Highways England reviewing bridge maintenance following Genoa disaster

Second Severn Crossing

Highways England is reviewing its bridge maintenance regimes following the Genoa bridge collapse.

The three month review in response to the Italian disaster, which killed 43 people earlier this month, is a “precautionary measure” being undertaken “simply because that’s a sensible thing to do”, chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told BBC Radio 5 Live today.

He went on to reject suggestions that England’s major road network was vulnerable to a similar tragedy. “We have nothing that tells us that we might have a bridge that’s in any way in trouble like that,” he said, adding that the UK’s maintenance regime in respect of similar structures was “very, very good”. 

“We’re very confident of what we do. That’s not to say we’re complacent,” he added. If there were any lessons to be learned from the collapse of the Polcevera viaduct, then the organisation would strive to adopt them.”

O’Sullivan repeated the road infrastructure operator’s statement in the days after the disaster, in which it emphasised that while “a very small proportion” of its structures are suspension or cable stayed bridges, none were of a “similar construction” to that of the Polcevera Viaduct.

He also explained that no specific inspections for any bridge had been deemed necessary as a result of the Italian disaster.

The regime review relates to the criteria used by inspection and maintenance teams working across the network. Typically deep inspections are required for major structures every two years. Older or more unusually designed structures and those with maintenance issues may be subject to more frequent reviews.

Some of the most significant larger bridges, such as the Severn Crossing, have their own inspection teams working to very specific criteria. Meanwhile many other structures of standardised design, such as culverts, will be subject to more common regimes.

All maintenance regimes will be examined during the review. If any changes are required, Highways England expects that these will take between 12 and 18 months to be rolled out to the relevant inspection teams across its engineering supply chain.

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