3:25 p.m. April 1, 2022
Four bridges – three over waterways and one over railway – have been earmarked for potential repairs, to ensure they can safely carry traffic.
The structures are among dozens of Norfolk bridges described by the RAC Foundation as ‘sub-standard’ because they are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles currently seen on our roads, including trucks weighing up to at 44 tons.
The Foundation says 45 of the county’s 829 bridges – 5% of the total – are “substandard”.
Norfolk County Council – which is responsible for most of them – does not agree with the categorization, pointing out that most have weight restrictions in place and are on secondary roads.
Officials point out that many were built decades ago and were never designed to carry modern heavy goods vehicles.
However, the authority revealed that four need work to bring them back to full capacity.
Feasibility studies are due to take place over the next 12 months to look at strengthening the Rungay Bridge, over the mid-level main drain at Marshland St James, and the Loke Road Bridge, over the River Gaywood at King’s Lynn.
In this latest structure, an emergency weight limit of 7.5 tonnes was put in place following an inspection in April 2019. Norfolk County Council hopes these two bridges will be strengthened by 2024 .
A third bridge, over the River Thet at Bridgham, near Thetford, had an emergency temporary three-tonne weight restriction imposed following an inspection in August 2018. NCC aims to strengthen this bridge by 2025.
There is also a bridge carrying Valley Lane on the Bure Valley Railway outside Aylsham which was closed to traffic following a capacity assessment in 2018.
Its owner, the Broadland District Council (BDC), questioned whether reopening it would justify the cost, and said there were “no reports of the bridge being closed creating a problem for the community”.
There are meanwhile some 41 bridges across Norfolk which will not be reinforced, including 10 which can only support three tonnes, such as the Mullicourt Bridge, at Outwell, near Wisbech.
Grahame Bygrave, NCC’s Highways and Waste Manager, said: ‘The majority of these are bridges over narrow, quiet country roads, and although the bridges that have been built there are often more than half a century may not be able to support the growing weight of today. big and heavy heavyweights, that doesn’t mean they don’t still do a good job for the lighter traffic that uses them.
“We are always ensuring that, where needed, the large vehicles and agricultural traffic that are essential to our economy can take the appropriate routes.”
In neighboring Suffolk, some 120 of 1,447 bridges (8pc) are “substandard”.