Local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have identified 3,061 bridges – defined as structures over 1.5m in span – as being substandard. The figure is 4.2% down on last year’s 3,194.

The analysis was carried out by the RAC Foundation and is based on 'freedom of information' responses from 203 of the 210 local highways authorities in Britain.

RAC Foundation said that the progress is under risk of reversal because of the pounding bridges have been taking from the recent flooding and the debris carried along by the current.

a bridge - from RAC Foundation report on bridges in Great Britain

In this context, substandard means unable to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on British roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes.

The estimated cost to bring all the substandard bridges back up to perfect condition is US$1.43 billion, which is down fractionally on the US$1.5 billion figure of a year earlier.

Between them, councils say they would ideally want to bring 2,084 (68%) of the 3,061 substandard bridges back up to full carrying capacity. However, budget restrictions mean they anticipate that only 359 of these will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.

The substandard bridges make up 4.3% of the total of 71,505 bridges the 203 councils manage between them.

The survey of local highways authorities was carried out by the RAC Foundation with the help of the National Bridges Group of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economics, Planning & Transportation.