Painting by numbers

It was the world’s first major steel bridge. A 54,000 tonne structure, 1.5 miles long and 100 metres in height, Scotland’s iconic Forth Bridge in Fife sees over 200 trains pass along its tracks daily.

And the maintenance of the bridge was once known as the most famous never-ending task. It even coined a phrase whereby painstaking and seemingly endless chores would be likened to “painting the Forth Bridge”.

From the first to last brushstroke, painting the structure traditionally took 10 years to complete. As soon as the final lick of paint was applied it was time to pick up the brush again and start the same cycle to apply another coat.

Innovation and technical expertise broke that cycle.

Wood Group Industrial Services (WGIS) stripped off the 40 layers of paint that coated the bridge and took it back to its original steel for the first time since it was built in 1890. A 200 strong team then spent eight years applying 240,000 litres of paint over the bridge’s 6.5million rivets by hand. The coating they used, a glass flake epoxy paint, was originally developed for North Sea oil rigs. Its resilience means no major painting will be required on the bridge for at least the next 20 years.

Brendan Fitzsimons, technical director of Wood Group Industrial Services says: “The Forth Bridge is a prestigious project that demonstrates how we deliver cost effective and innovate client solutions. “We have gone on to apply this technology and technique to other iconic structures including London’s Tower Bridge. And we are bringing this experience and expertise to the oil and gas sector supporting clients in the construction, maintenance and decommissioning of their assets.”