To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the total cost of strengthening roads and bridges from 1999, following implemention of EC regulations to allow 44-tonne heavy goods vehicles on United Kingdom roads; and if he will make a statement.
The Department has an existing 15-year programme of bridge rehabilitation for trunk roads and motorways, which commenced in 1987–88. The programme includes the assessment and where necessary strengthening of bridges and other structures, to deal with shortfalls in existing bridge strengths which have occurred as a result of the increased loading from and density of heavy traffic since the bridges were designed, and to get ready for heavier axle weights in 1999. The Department is also funding corresponding activities by local authorities in respect of their own bridges. Similar programmes exist in respect of the bridge stock owned by British Rail, British Waterways Board and London Underground Ltd. Expenditure after 1999 will depend on the progress with these programmes.Pavement wear after 1999 will depend on the growth of heavy goods vehicles, the extent of changes in the composition of the goods vehicle fleet including the take up of 44-tonne vehicles and whether 44-tonne vehicles are equipped with five or six axles.