Confusion of ‘substandard’ Wigan bridges report

A new report suggested most council-owned bridges were not suitable for heavy goods vehicles
A new report suggested most council-owned bridges were not suitable for heavy goods vehicles

A report that Wigan has among the greatest number of poorly-maintained bridges in the country turned out to be wrong last night, because the council gave its authors duff information.

Figures released for publication today had initially indicated that out of 158 council-maintained bridges throughout the borough, a staggering 100 of them were classed as “substandard”, meaning they are unfit to carry some heavy vehicles such as lorries.

But it turns out there are only 15 - and only one of them is looked after by the local authority.

The data had placed Wigan firmly in second place in a list of the top 10 councils in Britain with the highest proportion of substandard bridges, coming in with a percentage of 63 per cent, second only to the East London borough of Redbridge, all of whose 25 bridges flunked.

Furthermore, it was suggested Wigan Council would have to fork out £6m to clear the backlog of work needed to improve the affected bridges.

But questions were raised by the council, after the RAC Foundation and the National Bridges Group ADEPT, who carried out the research jointly, were unable to provide a specific breakdown of which bridges had been surveyed,and which ones considered substandard.

The council later moved to clarify that, due to a system error, the figures provided for the survey had been drastically inflated.

Amended figures showed that there were only 15 bridges in Wigan borough which had a weight restriction, only one of which was owned by Wigan

Council - the rest being owned by Network Rail and the Canal and Rivers Trust. Furthermore, only 13 borough bridges had a height restriction, none of which was council owned.

Following the research errors, Wigan Council reached out to the RAC Foundation and ADEPT to discuss the figures.

A council spokesman revealed: “The FOI information which was supplied to the RAC Foundation was obtained from a new bridge management system, which the council had acquired only a few months before.

“All data for 1,200 highway structures was transferred from our old bridge management system, and inadvertently some of structures were erroneously recorded as substandard.

“The total number of highway bridges owned by Wigan Council is 137 (109 bridges, 26 culverts and two subways).”