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Bridges

A bridge is considered to be any structure that carries a right of way over an obstruction, be it rail over road, or a footway over a river. Of the 195 bridges, 103 are owned and maintained by Medway Council, the remainder are owned and maintained by other organisations such as:

  • Network Rail (mostly rail over road bridges)
  • Highways Agency (structures on trunk roads and motorways)
  • Medway Ports
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Rochester Bridge Trust (Rochester bridges)
  • CTRL (Channel Tunnel Rail Link)

We are responsible for looking after bridges, footbridges, subways and other highway structures, together with tunnels, ranging from small pipe culverts to the Medway Tunnel.

All Medway Council-owned highway structures are inspected in keeping with Department for Transport guidelines.

General inspections are carried out every two years and a more detailed principal inspection every six years. Results from all inspections carried out are used to prioritise essential repairs and form the basis of routine maintenance programmes. Regular routine repairs include:

  • brickwork repointing
  • bridge deck waterproofing and resurfacing
  • repainting of steelwork
  • replacement of expansion joints
  • concrete repairs
  • subway cleaning.

Current design standards require new bridges to have a design life of 120 years.  We are responsible for managing the routing of abnormal load movements, to ensure the loads can safely pass through or under highway structures. We also monitors any works carried out by others on or over structures, to ensure the safety of highway users.

The council has a continuing programme of bridge assessment and strengthening on all structures supporting the highway.

This is part of a national initiative to allow the introduction of the new European 40 tonne vehicles. Priority for strengthening depends on several factors, including safety and route importance.  

Until repairs can be carried out, there may be weight limits or other restrictions.

Weight limits

All vehicles in general use on Britain's roads must conform to the Construction and Use Regulations.

These regulations allow the use of vehicles up to 44 tonnes gross vehicle weight. In some cases, following an assessment, a bridge may be found incapable of safely carrying such a large vehicle and in these instances weight restrictions are applied to such structures. Due to the way a structure is assessed, it will be deemed capable of carrying 26, 18, 7.5 or 3 tonne gross vehicle weight. These weight bands tie in with the different classes of vehicles described  in the Construction and Use Regulations. This makes it easier for drivers to identify the restrictions that apply to them and for the police to enforce.  Departures from this exist for masonry arches which are assessed differently and may have restrictions of 33, 13 or 10 tonnes.

The restrictions prevent large vehicles from using inappropriate roads, routes and areas so that:

  • danger to pedestrians and other road users is reduced
  • damage to buildings, roads and bridges is prevented
  • the character, amenity and environment of an area is preserved
  • congestion on the roads is managed and reduced.

Weight restrictions are also used to prevent large vehicles from using certain roads for environmental reasons and these will be either 18 or 7.5 tonne.

Enforcement

Sometimes hauliers need to transport goods or plant that exceed 44 tonnes. Movements of this type are covered by the Special Types General Order 2003. Hauliers are required to notify the Highway Authority and the Police, giving details of their intended route and the vehicles to be used.