DEVON and Somerset are among the local authority areas with the most substandard bridges in the country, according to the RAC Foundation.

A study by the organisation found one in 24 bridges on Britain's local roads are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles.

Local authorities identified 3,090 bridges as being substandard at the end of last year and are too weak to be used by 44-tonne lorries.

Many are subject to weight restrictions, while others are under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.

Councils reported 14 partial collapses during the 2021/22 financial year in Aberdeenshire, Barnet, County Durham, Lancashire, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Shropshire, Tower Hamlets, Warwickshire, Conwy and Newport.

Devon has the most substandard bridges at 224, followed by Cheshire East (194), Essex (151), Somerset (128) and Suffolk (119).

Some are substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, while others have deteriorated over time.

The total of 3,090 substandard bridges is down from 3,211 a year earlier.

Between them, local authorities said they would ideally want to bring 2,506 of their substandard bridges back up to full carrying capacity.

But budget constraints mean they anticipate only 387 will have the necessary work carried out within the next five years.

The analysis was based on data provided by 196 councils in response to Freedom of Information requests, and was carried out in partnership with Adept, a group representing local authority bosses responsible for transport and other sectors.

Bridges included in the research range from major structures across estuaries to stretches of road at least 1.5 metres in length spanning culverts carrying water under carriageways.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “This latest study shows the scale of the challenge local authorities are valiantly wrestling with to protect the critical road infrastructure we all rely on in the context of huge funding and resource pressures.

“The numbers illustrate how important it is for significant sums of money to be spent tackling at least the higher priority work.

“Whether it is potholes or bridges, there is only so long that councils can continue to patch things up before bigger cracks literally start to appear in the road network."

Kevin Dentith, vice chairman of Adept’s national bridges group, said: “Bridge owners have shown in the data an aspiration to reduce the number of substandard bridges by 81 per cent.

“The data suggests to achieve this will require Government funding of £918million, but there is currently a skills shortage of senior engineers able to take on this work.”