Establishing boundaries

13th Jan 2023

Do you know your structure boundaries and responsibilities?

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In the highways sector, there have always been discussions and some disputes around boundaries and responsibilities. Part of good asset management is understanding the interfaces between one highway authority and other parties. With that understanding comes the correct assignment of engineering responsibility and clarity of purpose.

Otherwise, poorly defined interfaces often result in unnecessary risks, protracted negotiations, additional costs and potential ‘gaps’ in maintenance responsibilities.
National Highways has more than 23,000 structural assets, of which nearly 9,000 are bridges. Consequently, there are many boundaries across different structure types. Key areas are at overbridges and under bridges, and regarding the clarity of ownership of retaining walls.

National Highways has been working closely with the ADEPT National Bridges Group (NBG), under the auspices of the Department for Transport, to develop guidance which provides a framework for asset management decisions at structural boundaries. The new guidance document, Definition of Asset Management Responsibilities: Bridges and Structures, outlines typical issues and scenarios and makes clear recommendations for operational actions. It differentiates between new and existing structures.

Some key principles have been adopted for the guidance:

  • Safety
  • Establishing physical demarcation locations
  • Setting technical responsibility
  • Assigning financial accountability
  • Ensuring consistency of approach in National Highways and ADEPT NBG

The guidance document is not a standard or a code of practice and will not resolve all boundary issues but it does provide an important framework for agreement. There are some financial implications for all parties and, crucially, any prior written agreements are respected.

The guidance has detailed appendices with scenarios to explain how the guidance would apply in practice for both new and existing structures. In particular, the responsibilities at overbridges are outlined.

The document is owned jointly by DfT, UKRLG, ADEPT NBG and National Highways, and represents a huge step forward with this longstanding issue. It ensures that safety considerations are paramount, while providing a framework for good asset management practices for structures.

Download the guidance document from here.

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