§ Mr. Wigley
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many bridges there are in England on recognised public highways; how many of these were strengthened to current standards by 31 December 1999; and what is the estimated cost of strengthening the remainder of these bridges to the new standard of weight which will come into force next year. 
§ Mr. Hill
There are some 60,900 bridges in England on roads maintainable at the public expense. 8,500 are on trunk roads and 52,400 on local roads.
EC Directive 85/3/EC requires the United Kingdom to allow the use on principal routes of vehicles of 40 tonnes weight with 11.5 tonne axle loads from 1 January 1999. Of those bridges requiring to be strengthened to take these vehicles, some 4,450 were strengthened by the end of March this year. We estimate that about 3,400 remain to be strengthened, at a cost of some £800 million.
Consultation will take place soon on whether to allow 44 tonne vehicles, subject to certain technical constraints. Any decision would depend upon the results of that consultation. These 44 tonne vehicles would not require extra bridge strengthening above that necessary for the 40 tonne vehicles already permitted.