Safeguarding the Forth Bridge
Published 16 July 2024 | Average read time
2 min read
Stories From the archive Industry-leading

We take great pride in looking after our historic structures, like the world-famous Forth Bridge near Edinburgh.

We refurbished the bridge between 2021 and 2022 so you could enjoy it for many years to come.

An iconic piece of Scotland’s railway

The Forth Bridge is one of Scotland’s most recognisable landmarks and has long been recognised as a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. It opened on 4 March 1890 and is still part of our operational railway – it carries the East Coast Main Line runs north from Edinburgh over the Forth Estuary.

The Forth Bridge needs regular maintenance and special care because it’s a Grade A listed world heritage site that we’re responsible for preserving.

The bridge used to need continuous painting but the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act outlawed historical practices. This meant teams could only complete maintenance on a smaller scale in easily accessed areas. The paint system then seriously corroded in some areas, with damage very visible by the early 1990s.

We carried out a full structural survey of the bridge and started working with contractor Balfour Beatty in 2002 to restore it to its former glory.

Over the next nine years, we removed old paint from the bridge, repaired any steelwork that needed maintenance and applied three protective layers of paint across the entire structure.

The techniques and paint used meant we didn’t have to do another refurbishment for the next 10 years.

The recent refurbishment of the Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge’s most recent refurbishment started in February 2021. We invested £7.5m in the renovation in the North Queensferry approach span – or arch – of the bridge.

We worked with Balfour Beatty again, starting by building a bespoke encapsulated – or enclosed – zone.

The fully enclosed scaffolding net allowed safe access to the bridge while preventing any disruption to rail services and minimising noise for the local community.

We grit-blasted layers of lead-based paint and inspected the bridge for damage. Our teams then repaired any damage and applied a new glass flake epoxy paint in the iconic Forth Bridge red – a job we wouldn’t need to do again for another 30 years.

The Forth Bridge is absolutely teeming with history and it’s our privilege to protect this iconic feat of civil engineering.

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