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M48 Severn Bridge

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Andrew Davies, Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Newtworks.
Members may recall the M48 Severn Bridge marked its 40 year of operation last month.  Earlier this year the Highways Agency, as the responsible highway authority for the M48 Severn Bridge, decided to conduct inspection works inside the main suspension cables.  The work was to ensure that the Bridge is still in good order and to find out what maintenance will be required to keep it in sound condition in the future.

The decision stems from cable inspections undertaken on the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh in 2004 that revealed a degree of corrosion, and some broken wires, inside the cable.  Opened in 1964 the Forth Road Bridge has main cables that are of a similar design to the M48 Severn Bridge.  

To date the Highways Agency has opened up and investigated the cable at a number of locations across the Bridge which has shown the level of corrosion found has been more advanced than that found during similar work on the Forth Bridge.  

The investigations into the condition of the cables are due to conclude by the end of this year.  When the results of the investigations and assessments are known the Highways Agency is committed to taking appropriate steps to maintain the structure, including repair work if necessary, recognising the importance of minimising disruption to users of this important route.

As a precautionary measure, heavy goods vehicles (exceeding 7.5 tonnes) will be restricted to lane one in both directions from November 2006.  This is not expected to have a significant impact on traffic using the bridge under normal conditions.  There are no immediate concerns to the travelling public and I understand that there are no plans at this stage to close the bridge.

I can assure Members that the Highways Agency will keep the Welsh Assembly Government fully informed of developments and that disruption to traffic using the bridge will be kept to a minimum in deciding what future maintenance is required to keep the bridge in good order.   Transport Wales officials remain in close liaison with Highways Agency counterparts as part of this process.