Bridge and culvert maintenance
Did you know that the council spends more than half a million pounds every year making sure that local bridges are safe for you to use?
With over 180 bridges located across the county borough, the council is responsible for carrying out regular checks to identify any possible problems and then dealing with them before they can cause trouble.
“Whether it’s a highway bridge that carries motor vehicles or a footbridge that people simply walk across, the council is responsible for maintaining them all,” says head of highways Aubrey Green. “But because the bulk of the maintenance work often takes place out of sight below a bridge, most people will only notice the temporary inconvenience that repair work may cause them.
“A case in point is the Cwm Quarella bridge on Tondu Road where we’ve had to close traffic lanes and impose a temporary 30mph speed limit. Not only does this bridge carry traffic and pedestrians, it also crosses over the main London to Swansea railway line. So we’ve had to carry out repair work under the bridge while making sure that traffic can still use it and train services can continue to run, and at the same time ensure the safety of the workers beneath. It’s a huge, essential project, but it doesn’t come cheap – the work on maintaining this bridge alone is costing £500,000.”
“Sometimes maintenance work may involve replacing support beams, other times bad weather and the elements might have worn away river bridge abutments and we have to carry out underwater concreting work. Quite often we have to undertake sympathetic maintenance on listed structures such as Merthyr Mawr’s 15th century dipping bridge or the small cobbled bridge that helped to name the town of Bridgend itself.
“When this happens, we liase with organisations such as Cadw, but other partnerships might involve working with Railtrack to identify any potential danger areas where there is the possibility of vehicles leaving the road and ending up on the railway line, or the Bridgend Ramblers Association with whom we are trying to improve the county borough’s rights of way network.”
It’s not only bridges that the council has to deal with. More than 250 culverts and retaining walls are
also regularly inspected and maintained, although the industrial heritage of the county borough sometimes throws up a few surprises, too.
“There was a case back in 2000 where an uncharted culvert suddenly collapsed in Shoemakers Row at Maesteg,” says Aubrey. “Nobody knew it was there as it wasn’t on any plan, but the culvert probably dated back to the 1850s and linked to the former iron works.
We had to implement a £300,000 four-phase plan to repair the damage and deal with the rest of the culvert. None of this work had been planned, but when the problem revealed itself we had to deal with it all the same.
“We also had an emergency incident a few years ago where part of a subway wall collapsed in Brackla,” adds Aubrey. “Luckily no one was hurt, but we needed to act quickly to repair the damage and make sure the main road alongside it was safe to use. Doing this cost £100,000. But other than picking up problems we have inherited from the past, we try to identify and prioritise locations where work is needed as far in advance as possible.
“We’ve carried out major strengthening works to 36 roads and footbridges, seven culverts and 14 retaining walls since April 2000 alone and have identified more than £11m of future work that will take us up to the year 2013.”
For more information on bridge and culvert maintenance, please contact the Highways department on (01656) 642541 or email: email@example.com