Transport Scotland has hit back at claims that the safety of its road bridges is being threatened by funding cuts.
The Transport body has moved to alleviate fears, after Transport Scotland’s chief bridge engineer Hazel McDonald called for greater funding for bridge maintenance, as reported by The Scotsman.
McDonald was quoted as calling for a major funding increase for trunk road crossings “to prevent issues becoming critical” during a question and answer session at Bridges Scotland in Edinburgh.
Funding for bridge maintenance in Scotland decreased to £64M this year. However Transport Scotland said this figure was only a small decrease on the previous year at £65.2M and was a significant steady increase over the last five years. In 2014 funding was less than half the current figure at £26M, rising to £39.1M in 2015 and £49.1M in 2016.
McDonald said her aspiration was to see funding for bridge maintenance increased to £100M. “I would like to see the budget get towards £100M over a period of time – about five years. That would certainly make a difference,” she said.
Fears over road bridge maintenance are heightened after the Polcevera Viaduct collapse in August, which killed 43 people. An interim report into the collapse listed a series of failings by the operator including a lack of sufficient analytical inspections and a failure to provide health and safety assessments.
In the latest Road Asset Management Plan for Scottish Trunk Roads published in January 2016, Transport Scotland said that in 2014 the maintenance backlog for bridges was “increasing and remaining challenging”.
Across the entire network comprising carriageways, bridges and ancillary assets, it said the backlog was £1.2bn, up on £969M the previous year. The backlog for bridges increased from £478M in 2013 to £615M in 2014.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The safety of drivers using our roads is our top priority and that is why the budget for maintenance of the trunk road network, including bridge maintenance, has increased by around £65M to £433M in this financial year.
“Our Road Asset Management Plan sets out what we do to deliver the best possible service with the resources available. Accordingly, we have developed maintenance strategies for our major asset types, including bridges, in order to make best use of available funds and ensure that they remain safe and fit for purpose.”
Transport Scotland is responsible for 1,874 bridges across the trunk road network.
Asset management improvements are delivered through four regional operating company contracts, formed by private companies in the North West, North East, South West and South East and the Forth Bridges unit.
Responsibilities for the operating contracts include cyclic and routine maintenance, winter service and emergency response. In addition, they also carry out structural road maintenance, bridge strengthening and maintenance, safety and condition inspections.
Amey is responsible for the Forth Bridges unit.
Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.