Bridges and tunnels
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors

The following Local Government practice note produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Bridges and tunnels
  • A bridge carrying a highway across a natural feature
  • A bridge carrying a highway across a man-made feature
  • A bridge carrying a highway across another highway
  • A bridge carrying above and across a highway something that is not itself a highway
  • Toll bridges and tolled tunnels
  • New bridges across navigable water
  • Bridges across boundaries
  • Footbridges

Bridges and tunnels

The main highways law issues concerning bridges and tunnels are as to the:

  1. rights of the public to pass and re-pass across bridges or through tunnels, and

  2. maintenance liability for them

The definitions of a bridge and a tunnel in the Highways Act 1980 (HiA 1980) are not very helpful. Section 328(2) says:

'Where a highway passes over a bridge or through a tunnel, that bridge or tunnel is to be taken for the purposes of this Act to be a part of the highway.'

But s 329(1) adds:

'“Bridge” does not include a culvert, but, save as aforesaid, means a bridge or viaduct which is part of a highway, and includes the abutments and any other part of a bridge but not the highway carried thereby;…'

There are four types of highway bridge:

  1. a bridge carrying a highway across a natural feature such as a river or a ravine

  2. a bridge carrying a highway across a man-made feature such as a railway or a canal

  3. a bridge carrying a highway across another highway

  4. a bridge carrying across a highway something that is not itself a highway

A bridge carrying a highway across a natural feature

This is a highway bridge within HiA 1980, s 328(2). In particular, the 100 yards length of highway at each end of the bridge (the bridge approaches) are also part of the

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