Roping up to paint London’s Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge in London, UK, had an inauspicious beginning. On its opening in 2000, people did not walk its 1000-ft length, rather they were bounced and vibrated along it before returning to the safety of steady ground. After engineers pinpointed and fixed the issues, it reopened two years later. Since then, it has attracted countless tourists after prominently featuring on TV and in films, including Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince and music videos for Taylor Swift and One Direction.
Fifteen years after the bridge’s unveiling, its owners hired rope-access specialist CAN, an RSK company, to redecorate and restore the bridge to its original brilliance. But the job came with considerable difficulties, primarily continuing public access, as the City of London Corporation owned bridge eases the daily journey for thousands of pedestrians travelling from Southbank to Temple.
“We cannot just shut the bridge down to carry out work. We have to keep it open to allow the people who cross it every day to continue using it,” said Paul Monaghan, Assistant Director of Engineering at the City of London Corporation.
Moreover, the steel suspension bridge cannot bear the weight of a full scaffolding rig, so CAN had to come up with an alternative way to access the bridge’s two piers, various supports and hidden underside. Its tailor-made solution was a rope-access system that was cheaper, quicker and more practical than scaffolding.
CAN’s engineers used IRATA rope access techniques and equipment to lower themselves onto a custom designed and built, lightweight aluminium cradle beneath the deck of the bridge. From here, safely secured to ropes but with firm footing provided by the suspended cradle, they repaired and prepared the surface before applying a fresh coat of waterproof paint. The eight-week programme was completed on schedule to the satisfaction of the client. Many interested tourists snapped photos of the CAN specialists safely dangling from ropes with paintbrushes in hand.