Highways England boss Jim O'Sullivan has revealed that precautionary measures are being taken to ensure bridges up and down the country are as structurally sound as they need to be following the tragic events in Genoa earlier this month.
The review in England comes after a long section of the Morandi Bridge, near Genoa, crumbled and left 43 people dead. The collapse happened on 14 August with about 30 vehicles and a few heavy-duty trucks believed to be involved.
Highways England has more than 21,000 structures on England’s network of motorways and major “A” roads, none of which are of similar design to the one in Italy, according to the roads body.
Following the tragic event, Highways England reassured motorists around the country by reiterating that safety is always its top priority and said it had a rigorous inspection regime in place for all its structures, which takes into account design, age and the likely maintenance needs.
But speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday, O'Sullivan said the organisation would be undertaking reviews of road bridge inspections as a “precautionary measure".
He said: “If we were complacent we might not, but we are doing a review, so we’re looking at some of our structures but only as a precautionary measure –we have nothing that tells us that we might have a bridge that’s in anyway in trouble like that.”
The Highways England review is expected to take three months, while implementing any changes deemed necessary could take up to 18 months. The highways chief also told the station that the biggest structures, including bridges, viaducts and tunnels, would be looked at "one by one".
“Our maintenance regime here in the UK is very, very good and many of the people who work in Highways England in our supply chain are seen as world leaders in the maintenance of bridges so we’re very confident of what we do,” O’Sullivan added.
While design structures are said to be different here in England when compared to Italy, O’Sullivan said if there were lessons to be learnt from the bridge collapse, then the organisation would learn them. He also claimed there was no “straightforward answer” to what might have happened in Genoa.
While the cause of the collapse is yet to be confirmed, authorities in the country initially said they believed that a violent storm caused the structure to give way. But since a series of theories have emerged including flawed inspections, degradation of the structure and a lack of maintenance by the bridge operators.
A criminal inquiry was launched by the Genoa Public Prosecutor's Office following the collapse with the investigation to look into possible negligent homicide.