Rail Industry Focus

01.01.12

Finish on the forth

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Dec/Jan 2012

The £130m refurbishment of the Forth bridge is now complete after 10 years of work. The project finished on 9 December 2011 – ahead of schedule – and the bridge is free of scaffolding for the first time in a decade.

The work included painting over 230,000 square metres of the 125-year-old structure and means that no additional full-scale repainting will be needed for at least 20 years.

Network Rail delivered the project with Balfour Beatty, who undertook the restoration works with four principal sub contractors – Pyeroy Ltd, specialists in blasting and coating; Harsco Infrastructure, specialists in access systems and encapsulation; RBG Ltd, specialists in steel repairs; and facilitators ThyssenKrupp Palmers Ltd.

Old paint was removed using an abrasive blasting preparation and the steel coated with an industrial protective coating system. The new paint used to coat the bridge is specialist glass flake epoxy paint, similar to that used in the offshore oil industry and designed to last 25 years. It is, however, expected to last much longer. A triple layer of this paint was applied to protect the bridge’s steel work from the weather. W J Leigh of Bolton supplied the specialist paint and coating systems.

The project also involved repair and replacement of walkways, including the installation of new walkways and catwalks to allow for access to the works and to assist in the future examination and maintenance of the bridge. Additionally, there was replacement of small localized sections of steel where required. The bridge’s architectural lighting system was refurbished.

Over the life of the project, more than 1,500 people have worked on the structure, with up to 400 people a day on the bridge at the height of the refurbishment works. The bridge, which was built between 1883 and 1890, is 1.5 miles long.

The track is about 150ft above the water level and the bridge reaches 330ft at the tops of the towers. The steel structure contains more than 6.5 million rivets.

David Simpson, Network Rail route managing director for Scotland, said: “The completion of this refurbishment will safeguard the future of one of the country’s most famous landmarks.

“Repainting the bridge has long been considered one of the world’s never-ending tasks, and the refurbishment programme we have just completed has been one of the biggest engineering challenges Network Rail has faced. Our staff and contractors can take real pride in their achievements on this project, not least in the fact that through their efforts this amazing structure will remain free of major maintenance work for at least two decades.”

Marshall Scott, managing director of Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering, added: “Balfour Beatty is immensely proud to have successfully delivered the programme to refurbish the Forth Bridge over the past decade.

“It is a testament to the skill and commitment of the project team, and the subcontractors and suppliers, involved in this significant and complex programme of works that the iconic Forth Bridge has been returned to its original condition.”

A small team of specialist engineers will continue to monitor and maintain the bridge, which is regularly exposed to extreme conditions due to its location.

Recent bad weather, including strong winds and storms has already meant that the Forth bridge has had to be shut this January.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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