Transport Committee: Press Notice

Session 2009-10, 11 December 2009

New Inquiry and Call for Evidence

The impact of flooding on bridges and other transport infrastructure in Cumbria

Terms of reference and call for evidence

In November this year, Cumbria experienced the highest level of rainfall measured in the UK since records began, with over 316mm (12.4 inches) of rainfall in 24 hours in some areas. The estimated one-in-200 year weather event resulted in severe flooding across the county. Six bridges in Cumbria€”three road bridges and three footbridges€”collapsed. Tragically, a policeman was killed when a bridge collapsed. A number of other road and foot bridges were closed as safety precautions, causing massive travel disruption. The town of Workington was effectively split into two, with people having to take lengthy detours to reach the town centre and children unable to attend school. The response to the damage caused by the floods continues. Two hundred soldiers have been drafted in to construct a temporary footbridge across the River Derwent. Network Rail has opened a temporary rail station to link the north and south of Workington. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the Department for Transport will fund bridge and road repairs.

The events in Cumbria have shone the spotlight on the susceptibility of the country's bridges, and other transport infrastructure, to severe flood events. Intense rainfall events are predicted to become more frequent with climate change and it has been suggested that, if the bridge network is left in its current state, the kind of events witnessed in Cumbria could become more common. Thousands of bridges around the country are at least 100 years old. Despite annual inspection and maintenance by local authorities, some structures built in the 19th century are said to have reached the end of their expected life span.

Local authorities are responsible for the management of most bridges in the UK, although the Highways Agency is responsible for bridges carrying motorways and trunk roads. Network Rail is responsible for the structural integrity of railway bridges.

The Transport Committee will inquire into the impact of flooding on bridges and other transport infrastructure in Cumbria. In particular:

  1. What were the causes of the collapse of the bridges in Cumbria? To what extent were the collapses caused by structural flaws, the age or state of maintenance of the bridges?
  2. How likely is it that the recent experiences in Cumbria would be repeated in other parts of the country in the event of similar weather conditions? How well protected are the country's bridges to cope with the type of flooding events seen in Cumbria? What would be the implications if we continued as "business-as-usual"?
  3. To what extent is the nation's other transport infrastructure, such as roads and railway lines, adequately protected against severe flooding events?
  4. What measures, if any, should the Government take to better protect bridges and transport infrastructure from flooding events? Is there a need for the Government to undertake a significant building programme to renew or replace bridges? What would be the estimated costs of such action?

Interested parties are invited to submit evidence by Tuesday 19 January 2010.

Guidance on submitting written evidence

It assists the Committee if those submitting written evidence adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Submissions should be as short as is consistent with conveying the relevant information. As a rough guide, it is usually helpful if they can be confined to six pages or less. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference. A single-page summary of the main points is sometimes helpful. The submission should be in a form suitable for monochrome photocopying.
  2. Evidence should be submitted in Word or Rich Text format, by e-mail to The body of the e-mail should include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. It should be absolutely clear who the submission is from, particularly whether it is on behalf of an organisation or in the name of an individual.
  3. Once accepted by the Committee, written evidence becomes the Committee's property and it may decide to publish it or make other public use of it. You should not publish evidence submitted to the Committee. If you wish your submission, or any part of it, to be treated as confidential, then please indicate this clearly when you submit it.
  4. Though the Committee is happy to receive copies of published material, formal submissions of evidence should be original work and not published elsewhere.
  5. Committee staff are happy to give further advice on any aspect of the Committee's work by phone or e-mail.

More detailed guidance on giving evidence to a select committee is available on-line at: