Between 20,000 and 25,000 bridges across France need major work to ensure they are safe, a French senator has said, one year after a bridge in the south of France collapsed, killing two people.
The comment comes from Michel Dagbert, senator for Pas-de-Calais and co-creator of a report on the safety of bridges across the country, ordered by the planning and sustainable development commission, la commission de l'aménagement du territoire et du développement durable.
The senator also called for more financial support for small communes, which need extra resources to maintain complex structures.
Mr Dagbert said: “20,000 to 25,000 bridges today need a pretty major intervention. It would be, in my opinion, criminal to leave mayors of small communes which have several structures alone with these difficulties.
“There is no point saving a structure if the group does not have the technical engineering skills, financial ability or administrative services [to ensure it].
“We will make sure that the state provides support to the communities which face huge difficulties when it comes to maintaining complex engineering structures. The budget devoted to the maintenance and repair of bridges is far from sufficient.”
He said that last year, the commission had managed to increase this support by €10million after a debate in the senate on the 2020 budget.
His comments come almost a year after the bridge at Mirepoix-sur-Tarn collapsed in the Haute-Garonne, Occitanie. When asked if the current state of bridges across France could lead to another disaster such as that, Mr Dagbert said: “Yes, absolutely.”
A senator report from 2019, which was commissioned after the Genoa Morandi bridge disaster of August 2018, was submitted to then-Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne in July last year.
Mr Dagbert said: “At the time of the report, we were surprised that we did not have an exhaustive inventory of the number of structures, and that the state of repair of the structures was barely known or not known at all.
“But this wasn’t the case for the Mirepoix-sur-Tarn bridge because the department had already organised a deep evaluation of the structure in 2017, and a further check in 2018.”