Friday, February 22, 2008

Painting the Forth Bridge

I have crossed the legendary Forth bridge, and I know of the story:

So much steel is involved in the 1.5-mile long rail bridge over the Firth of Forth that, the legend goes, by the time the painters finish, they need to start over again at the other end.

But I was always skeptical of that ... that would mean nothing large can ever be completely painted. Which is rubbish. If you want something finished earlier, you usually just need more money or more effort thrown at it.

In fact, for a large static structure, it seems to make perfect sense to employ just the right number of workers so that the rate of paint application is equal to the rate of paint degradation. Any more workers, and the "burn rate" is higher than it needs to be.

However, according to the Reuters news report, Balfour Beatty has been paid 74 million pounds to complete the job by 2012. You thought your house painters charged a lot. The job started in 2002, and the new coating lasts 20 years. So in 2022 the whole thing starts again. And the legend lives on.

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