CARMARTHENSHIRE has the third highest number of substandard bridges of Wales’s 22 local authorities but council chiefs have insisted that all of them are safe.

The county has the second largest length of road network in Wales and therefore more bridges.

It said it had 55 substandard bridges out of 799, in response to a Freedom of Information request from the RAC Foundation.

Substandard was defined in terms of capacity or weight restrictions.

Cllr Hazel Evans, executive board member for environment, said: “Fewer than seven per cent of these (799 bridges) fall below the standard to support vehicle weights of 44 tonnes.

“But it is important to note that all bridges are safe — some will have weight restrictions placed on them due to their original design, as many of them were designed and built before the increased weight limit was introduced on roads in the UK in 2001.”

She added: “Structures continue to be upgraded subject to available funding.”

In 2017/18 the council carried out 323 general bridge inspections, and nine structural reviews. It said 10 bridges were expected to return to full load capacity in the next five years, and that all 55 would if money wasn’t an issue.

The maintenance backlog for the 799 bridges is just over £10.3 million. The council spent just over £520,000 to maintain them in 2017/18.

Carmarthenshire Council arranged specialists to inspect several bridges after Storm Callum last October.

Conwy had the highest number of substandard bridges in Wales, with 63. Bridgend had the lowest number, with nine.

Martin Tett, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, which representing 370 councils in England and Wales, claimed the study “underlines the chronic need for more investment in existing local roads”.