FORTH RAIL Bridge repainting has been postponed for at least a year after the contractor abandoned the £40M contract halfway through.
Exceptionally bad weather, and difficulties applying the three-coat paint system, have been blamed for the joint decision by client Railtrack and contractor Rigblast Energy Services to cancel the four year contract.
'There was no point in continuing with something that cannot work,' said Rigblast marketing director Neil Munro. 'It was a mutual decision to stop and a better solution must be sought.'
Last month, halfway into the job, only about 30% of the 51,000t of steel had been gritblasted back to base metal and repainted with a primer, main coat and protective sealant. High winds caused at least four times more downtime than the contractor expected and work was running about nine months late
A Railtrack spokesman claimed the operation was 'simply taking too long'.
He said: 'Despite the high number of days lost through bad weather, there was concern that we were so far behind. There is nothing wrong with the paint system, only the slow speed with which it was being applied.'
More than 4,000t of scaffolding, dividing the massive steel beams into dozens of separately encapsulated enclosures, must be dismantled. Tenders will be sought in the autumn to start painting the remaining 70% of the 2.5km long crossing next spring.
'We hope tenderers will come up with a faster method,' said the Railtrack spokesman.
Earlier painting of the 110-year-old bridge had been haphazard, with some sections of 350,000m2 structure protected by 30 layers and others barely covered. The current system involved enclosed grit blasting with recovery and bagging of all grit and paint.