• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Repairs to Oxfordshire’s ‘crumbling’ bridges set to cost nearly £80 million

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 27, 2022

“CRUMBLING” bridges are set to cause Oxfordshire County Council a near-£80 million headache over the next five years.

The county’s cabinet issued the stark warning while discussing its Highways Asset Management Strategy & Policy, the document that sets out how the authority will approach looking after pavements, cycle paths, roads and bridges.

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The council is estimating it will need to find almost £100 million between now and March 2027 just to cover the basic maintenance needs of Oxfordshire’s network, which includes around 3,000 miles of road, 2,000 miles of footway and 1,200 bridges as well as streetlights, signs, roadside drains, signalled junctions and trees.

Funding comes from two pots with around £20 million from the council’s revenue budget, used to provide services, set aside for preventative maintenance.

The second pot comes from the capital budget, money used to pay for bulky items such as machinery, buildings and infrastructure.

The government currently pays around £16 million per year towards the upkeep of Oxfordshire’s highway network but it was not enough and having reached what the council’s report referred to as “a critical position”, the county committed to matching that funding for five years from April 2019.

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However, even that is nowhere near the £45 million required to “prevent any deterioration and maintain a steady state” according to the council’s latest report, which states that improvement “would require a budget of between £60 and £80m per annum”.

A breakdown by section laid bare the issue with bridges – investment to fix them peaks at £4.5 million for the financial year 2024-25 before dropping to the £1.6 million per year once the council top up ends.

There is a total of £15.9 million currently allocated for bridges between now and March 2027 but it is estimated that the maintenance will cost more than £95 million.

Councillor Andrew Gant (Lib Dem, Wolvercote & Summertown), the county’s cabinet member for highway management, said: “When you don’t have enough money, how do you use it most wisely? There is a very good section in this report on what officers refer to as lifecycle planning,” he said.

“It sets out the approach to investing in the smartest possible way, at the optimum moment in the lifecycle of an asset."

Councillor Dr Pete Sudbury (Green, Wallingford) expressed “horror” at the “almost banana republic-type way” in which new roads are funded without adequate provision to fix existing ones.

“That is the sign of a nation that has taken a wrong turn somewhere,” he said.

Councillor Calum Miller (Lib Dem, Otmoor), the county’s cabinet member for finance, said: “It is something we will need to come back to and discuss in some detail because the figures are clearly very problematic."