IT would cost a huge £61 million to repair dozens of bridges across Essex which are not up to standard, it has been revealed.

The county has the second highest number of substandard bridges with 163 in total and it would cost more than £61million to repair them.

Local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have identified 3,061 bridges as being substandard.

A report carried out by motoring research charity, the RAC Foundation, and Adept, found only Devon had more.

It shows Essex has the second highest number of substandard bridges -163 in total- out of the existing 915 bridges in the county.

Substandard means the bridges are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes.

Figures show it would cost an estimated £61,517,000 to repair them.

Only 12 bridges are intended to be returned to full load capacity in the next five years.

Devon has the highest number of substandard bridges at 241, followed by Essex (163), Somerset (153) and Cornwall (140).

Many bridges have been affected by flooding and hit by debris carried along by rivers in recent weeks.

Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation director, described the conditions of road bridges as a “canary-in-a-coal-mine indicator for the health of the highway network as a whole”.

He said: “The number of bridges highway authorities expect to bring up to standard in the next five years is in the hundreds, but the number they’d like to restore to manage traffic demand is in the thousands.“As recent storms have demonstrated, our road infrastructure - including bridges - is under attack not just from the ever-growing volume of traffic but from the elements.

“Highway authorities desperately need the money and the engineering expertise to monitor and ensure our highways are properly maintained and kept open for business.”

Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for infrastructure, said Essex has one of the longest road networks and as a result, many more bridges than other areas.

“Despite having significant financial pressures we have always prioritised investment in the road network as we want to ensure we keep Essex moving,” he said.

“This year we will spend £8million on structures, which includes bridge maintenance and next year we have also committed to spending £8million.”

He added they are confident of effectively managing bridges to keep traffic moving.

But he said: “We are very conscious that we have a large number of older bridges in our county, many dating back to the Victorian era or even before, which were never designed to take modern volumes, size or weight of traffic, up to 44 tonnes.

“This offers a stark challenge to every authority, but we are utilising modern technology to tackle this.

"Innovative bridge fixes, alongside regular inspections, structural assessments and a fully-scientific prioritisation of bridge repairs or replacements, will help us maximise our investment.

“We know we cannot reverse the decline of bridges overnight, but we can be confident of effectively managing our local bridges to help keep Essex moving.”

Essex Highways is working on Marks Tey Station Bridge, in North Lane and works will be completed in July.

They have also recently finalised work at Thistley Green Bridge in Braintree.

The analysis was carried out by the RAC Foundation, in partnership with Adept, a group representing local authority bosses responsible for transport and other sectors and is based on FOI responses from 203 of the 210 local highways authorities in Britain.