All large structures need maintenance, and the Forth road bridges are no exception.
Nobody knows these structures better than the Forth Bridges Unit's inspection team. Every centimetre of each structure is regularly examined in the course of a continuous programme of inspection.
On the Forth Road Bridge over 200,000 square metres of paint must be examined and tens of thousands of bolts inspected on the truss alone. The bridge also houses a wide variety of electrical and mechanical equipment, all of which must be regularly checked for safety and efficiency.
By conducting their checks in an ordered routine, they the team ensures that the most critical components of the crossing are examined most frequently. Any defects identified are prioritised and then become part of the reactive maintenance programme.
Maintenance is also ongoing and proactive. Whether the focus is on long-term strengthening and improvement, repair and replacement of bridge components and surfacing, or painting and other preventative treatments, the aim is the same – to maximise traffic flow and minimise safety risks.
Although major improvement projects generally go out to tender, replacement of smaller components, painting, welding, fabricating, electrical repairs and all other day-to-day maintenance tasks are completed by the Forth Bridges Unit’s on-site team. So essential is their role in keeping these structures in working order that the staff are considered as much a part of the bridge as its nuts and bolts.
The majority of maintenance is carried out overnight or at weekends to minimise disruption to traffic, and bridge workers routinely brave the elements, often working at height or in confined spaces, to keep the bridges safe and open to traffic.