15 December 2021

Aberdeenshire Council unveils its 10-year bridge prioritisation programme

Aberdeenshire Council has unveiled its prioritisation programme for the region’s bridges and structures over the next decade.

Earlier this year, members of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee formally agreed a prioritisation policy and procedure which would set out how and when works will be undertaken across the region and direct funding to where it does the most good.

Councillors recently heard the ‘Bridges Workbank’ is critical to managing the local authority’s bridge stock and will ensure effective use of funding.

The local authority is responsible for 3,500 miles of public road, carried by 1,308 bridges, which equates to one bridge approximately every 2.7 miles of road. It is currently estimated that there is a £100m defect backlog within the council’s bridges and structures programme.

With more than £16 million allocated from the Bridges and Structures Rolling Programme for each of the next nine financial years, together with a further £30million from the Capital
Infrastructure Investment Fund, the total budget spend will be £46 million.

Officers have advised that careful long-term planning using key criteria is required given the scale of the backlog of the works required for Aberdeenshire’s bridges and the time required to bring schemes from inception through to completion.

Having one prioritised list to cover all six council administrative areas provides the best basis for a clear plan for the future.

The 170-year-old Oatyhill railway bridge currently tops the prioritisation table – with an estimated £1 million required for further inspections, structural assessments and consolidation for active pursuits such as walking and cycling.

The structure was closed in July of last year after a detailed structural assessment revealed serious concerns over the integrity and strength of the structure. The bridge over the main Aberdeen to Edinburgh rail line carries a local access road linking several properties at Oatyhill to Laurencekirk.  

In other areas, the investment programme also includes a major £3 million scour protection and strengthening scheme at Banff Bridge, while at Park Bridge at Drumoak there is a £750,000 programme of works for the conservation and refurbishment of the A-listed structure to ensure its long-term suitability for active travel purposes.

Chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Cllr Peter Argyle, welcomed the prioritisation programme, stating: “This has been a sterling piece of work by our bridges team and on behalf of the authority I wish to offer my sincere thanks for the efforts made on this challenging and complex issue.

“Aberdeenshire has a significant number of bridges, many of which date back to the Victorian era so were not designed or built to cope with modern levels of traffic or weight. The state of our bridge network is compounded by severely restricted budgets over the last two decades and the challenge that climate change might pose a greater risk to our bridges’ foundations in the years ahead if the current situation remains.”

Vice-chair Cllr John Cox added: “We are very conscious of the scale of the challenge facing Aberdeenshire’s bridges and our teams continually assess funding options and opportunities as well as considering radical solutions within our existing resources to remedy matters.

“Our prioritisation list is a live document and during the course of a year and indeed across the duration of the programme, it will inevitably change reflecting changing circumstances. While it will be a good guide as to project delivery, it will be the case that priorities could change.”