Forth Bridge painting 'is coming to an end'

Media caption,
The Forth Rail Bridge will be free of scaffolding and painters from 9 December

The painting of the Forth Bridge, a job that is famously never finished, is about to come to an end.

Network Rail, which manages the bridge, said contractors will leave the iconic structure in December and will not need to paint it again for 25 years.

After 10 years and more than £130m, the bridge will finally be free of scaffolding.

The current contract is due to be completed ahead of schedule on Friday 9 December 2011.

New techniques and products are being hailed for the success of the project.

A 200-strong team has been applying a triple layer of new glass flake epoxy paint, which is similar to that used in the offshore oil industry.

It creates a chemical bond to provide a virtually impenetrable layer to protect the bridge's steel work from the weather.

Much safer

Matti Watson, a blaster paint supervisor, said it was dangerous work when he started painting the bridge in 1971.

He said: "There were rope cradles when I first started with the pulleys.

"Now it's scaffold, which is probably a lot safer for everybody concerned.

"A bucket and a brush, that's how it was done. A big round brush and a big bucket. You had to carry them wherever you went. There were no safety belts in those days."

The expression "like painting the Forth Bridge" was coined to describe a never-ending job, one which takes so long that when you have finished it, it is time to start again.

Colin Hardie, Balfour Beatty construction superintendent, said that "old cliche" was now over.

"For the first time in the bridge's history there will be no painters required on the bridge. Job done," he said.

David Simpson, Network Rail Scotland's route managing director, said: "Over the last decade, the bridge has been restored to its original condition and its new paint will preserve the steelwork for decades to come."

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.

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