If you are reporting this defect outside normal working hours and you believe it is an urgent problem and a risk to public safety, please phone the police on 101. 

When you report a problem with a bridge or retaining wall, we will assess the severity and assign an inspector. If we are not responsible for the structure, we will pass the report to the appropriate owner. We will make the site safe and respond in accordance with the inspector’s recommendations.

What we do

Somerset has nearly 3000 highway bridges and retaining walls – some new, others centuries old. We try to maintain these efficiently with the minimum of disruption.

  • Retaining walls supporting the highway (below the level of the highway) are generally our responsibility to maintain.
  • Walls retaining land above the highway are normally the responsibility of the adjoining landowner.
  • Boundary Walls responsibility for keeping these in good order normally resides with the adjoining landowner.
  • Parapet Walls (Edge Protection) on bridges form part of the bridge or wall that supports them, so the responsibility lies with the owner of the rest of the structure.

We carry out inspections of sustaining walls approximately every 2 years and prioritise the works arising for routine maintenance.

We are also responsible for fences on the highway, for example, post and rail fencing separating a footway and ditch. Boundary fences adjacent to the highway are usually part of a private property boundary. To discuss any issue with walls or fences please contact us.

Inspecting bridges

Bridges are inspected approximately every 2 years and a programme of maintenance work is drawn up. Incidents of damage through vehicle collision, storm damage, or other causes are investigated as soon as possible.

In the case of damage to bridges by vehicles, reporting the vehicle details may mean it is possible for us to claim the cost of the repairs to the bridge or culvert.

53 bridges are listed buildings of which 17 are scheduled ancient monuments.

These structures require maintenance to exacting standards and we consult the relevant authority and acquire the necessary approvals before such work is carried out.

Assessing and strengthening bridges

In addition to more routine bridge maintenance work, we have been engaged in a long-term government sponsored task of assessing the load carrying capacity of bridges. All highway authorities throughout the UK have been undertaking this work and it has been the largest exercise of this type ever undertaken.

The assessments started in the early 1990s and were prompted by the planned increase in the maximum weight of lorries from 38 tonnes to 40 tonnes which happened in 1999. Around 1400 Somerset road bridges with a span greater than 1.5m are included.

When a bridge is found to be under strength this is usually rectified with a bridge strengthening scheme. In some cases, very weak or deteriorated bridges have had to be replaced, in some other cases it has been deemed safe to use weight restrictions.

Somerset’s programme of bridge strengthening has been carefully prioritised and the weakest bridges on the main routes, with the heaviest traffic, have been dealt with first. Naturally, it is important for a rural county (with often heavy agricultural traffic) to have local roads capable of safely carrying all traffic, so the work continues on these routes too.

Non highway bridge and structure problems

Non-highway bridge and structure problems should be reported to the following organisations:

Bridges over streams in Exmoor National Park, please report to Exmoor National Park

Last reviewed: May 22, 2023 by Adam

Next review due: November 22, 2023

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