Welcome to the fourth edition of the project newsletter

We are delighted to bring you the fourth edition of our Community Newsletter for the Edinburgh North Bridge Refurbishment project. As works progress, we will keep you updated with the behind the scenes of this project, our progress, and planned works.


Project Timescale

Balfour Beatty commenced the North Bridge Refurbishment works in June 2018 with completion expected in 2021.

Core refurbishment works to the North Bridge include:

  • Structural steelwork repairs
  • Grit blasting and repainting of the structural steelwork
  • Repairs to the cast iron façades
  • Repairs to the Bridge’s concrete deck
  • Improvements to the structural drainage systems
  • Replacement of bridge expansion joints at road level
  • Restoration of, and repairs to, the King’s Own Scottish Borders War Memorial
  • Installation of permanent platforms to improve access for future inspection & minor maintenance
  • All temporary scaffolding required to access the structure
Current Works on the North Bridge

Behind the Scenes

Refurbishment works currently taking place at the North Bridge

Temporary Access Scaffolding

In relation to the original bridge construction in 1897, the British Architect Journal, wrote that ‘Scaffolding of a peculiar construction had to be employed, and methods of working more or less a novelty had to be introduced as the works went on’. The same can be said for the refurbishment works, as approximately 250 kilometres of scaffold tube have been weaved into position through the 6,300 steel members of the Bridge to provide temporary access. The majority of the temporary access scaffold will be installed this year and the maintenance, alteration and adaption to facilitate the follow-on trades will continue until the scaffold removal commences in 2021.

Redundant Utilities

The temporary access scaffold has allowed for the identification, disconnection, and removal of the redundant utilities from the bridge. As these utilities are redundant, they are being removed.

Concrete Deck

The current reinforced concrete bridge deck was constructed in 1933 and is reaching the end of its original design life. In advance of undertaking the concrete repairs, we are undertaking testing which will inform the extent of the repairs and remediation required. These tests examine the condition of the concrete, the reinforcement, and identify particles such as road salt which may indicate a risk of future detoriation.

Concrete Core taken through deck

Steelwork Repairs

The steelwork repairs ongoing onsite involve the phased removal and reinstallation of steel bracing members which have become detoriated over the life of the structure. As the bridge is currently not subject to any traffic restriction, each steel member has to be removed and installed in a specific sequence to ensure the structural integrity of the deck is maintained at all times.

At this stage in the project there are over 50 operatives onsite everyday. On weekday evenings, we also implement traffic management on the North Bridge to allow materials to be brought into site for the following day’s work. This will continue for the duration of the project.

Safety of the highest importance

Operational Intelligence Visit

Visit from the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service

As well as carrying out weekly fire inspections and holding routine fire drills, the North Bridge Refurbishment project invited Firefighters from the Tollcross Fire Brigade for an operational intelligence visit. The purpose of this visit was to allow the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to gain access to the scaffolding and devise an emergency evacuation and rescue plan for each individual span.

Balfour Beatty is committed to ensuring the safety of any workers or members of the public on our sites. This includes keeping our workforce, business partners, suppliers, sub-contractors, and all members of the public safe. Therefore, the site management team regularly review the projects health & safety plans.

Staff Wellbeing

Glen, a Balfour Beatty Site Agent, has been leading the ‘Give Cycle Space’ campaign at the North Bridge Refurbishment project, which demonstrates the clearance that drivers should allow when passing cyclists on the road.

Site Cycle Champions

The North Bridge Refurbishment project has encouraged cycling to work, with several workers making cycling part of their daily routine as they strive for a healthier lifestyle and better mental wellbeing. As well as pledging to reduce the site’s carbon foot print, the site management team are committed to protecting cyclists and other vulnerable road users in their vehicle movement plans.

Glen Henderson, Site Agent, from Balfour Beatty said:

I am lucky enough to be able commute to work via bicycle. If your project is equipped to do so I’d recommend cycling to work as a great way to start and conclude your working day. We can reduce our carbon footprint whilst engaging in exercise and contribute to reducing the traffic volume around site.


The North Bridge Refurbishment project continue to honour their ‘Pledge Less Plastic’ Campaign, the project’s most recent actions have included replacing shop-bought plastic milk cartons with local glass bottle deliveries.

The site team had been consuming an average of six plastic milk cartons a week, and by changing to glass milk bottle deliveries, the site will cut out 475 plastic bottles from Summer 2019 to the end of the project; this also allows the team to support British dairy farmers and local business.

Recently, the site team introduced low-energy hand dryers, replacing paper towels and reducing the volume of paper waste. Equally the office space and welfare facilities on Market Street can accommodate the same number of people as that of ten cabins, which run on diesel generators making the North Bridge a cleaner site.

Employment & Skills

Summer Work Experience Placements

End of Placement Presentations

The North Bridge Refurbishment project hosted two summer work experience placements. Shadowing the site’s civil engineers, both workers were able to gain hands on experience on site, were introduced to BIM 360, and gained their CSCS cards while with the project. They were also given daily duties to complete and were involved with regular site management meetings.

The two were invited to present what they had gained from their summer work experience to the project management. Keir Skilling, Summer Intern, Balfour Beatty, said:I learned how teams work in a professional environment and how a large-scale civil engineering site operates.” Keir also stated that he felt “brought in and involved from the beginning.

Grassmarket Community Project

Timber Recycling

The North Bridge Refurbishment project donated 500 top quality timber railway sleepers to local recycling and sustainability charity ‘Grassmarket Community Project.’ The charity delivers sustainable solutions for the causes and consequences of homelessness in Scotland.

As part of the North Bridge Refurbishment project, timber sleepers that are no longer necessary for the Bridge’s structure have been removed. Rather than going to landfill, the timber sleepers have been donated to local up-cycling charity ‘Grassmarket Community Project (GCP)’. The GCP offers mentoring, social enterprise, training and education in their furniture workshops that transform local wood into bespoke pieces of furniture and home furnishings.

These timber sleepers have been part of the bridge since it was constructed by Sir William Arrol & Co., during the period 1894 – 1897. The charity treats the timbers, removing any potentially harmful substances that are coating the wood, ultimately transforming these into beautiful pieces of furniture. Not only does this give the timber sleepers a second life, but it supports

the local economy, social enterprise and celebrates a piece of the North Bridge’s heritage and culture which is a Category A listed heritage site.

Tommy Steel, Furniture Workshop Supervisor, from Grassmarket Community Project said:

The timber you have donated to us is Douglas Fir, and of the very highest quality. What better example could there be of recycling wood for iconic furniture than making the cabinet from timber from the historic North Bridge, so that it would have a new life as beautiful furniture for so many years later.

The members of our furniture team have come to us in need of a range of support. The work they do helps to transform their lives and to contribute positively to society by making high quality items that are treasured. I know full well that the team will have a great experience when making timber furniture from this iconic bridge.

Edinburgh Old Town Association

The North Bridge Refurbishment project hosted a presentation for local community society, the Edinburgh Old Town Association, which discussed the history of the North Bridge, techniques and technologies being used on the project, and the project’s pledge to delivering community benefits and social value.

Balfour Beatty is dedicated to the Considerate Constructors Scheme ‘Code of Considerate Practice’ which highlights the importance of respecting the communities in which we operate.

The North Bridge Refurbishment Project is committed to supporting our local community and strives to be considerate neighbours. Through hosting groups, such as the Edinburgh Old Town Association, this allows the site management team to share some ‘behind the scene’ insights into the project’s current works with the local community.

During the presentation, the site management team were able to demonstrate innovative technologies being used on the project, including: BIM 360 Field, 3D digital scanning, and 360° photography.

Naomi Richardson, from the Edinburgh Old Town Association, said:

On behalf of the Old Town Associations members, please accept our very sincere thanks for last night's fascinating presentations and allowing a few of our folk to visit the actual bridge - they all loved it! We really appreciated you all giving up your evening to do this for us.

Naomi continued:

All the technological explanations were amazing - thank you, Rory. It was stunning and humbling to see just what all this work involves. The skills and indeed bravery of all involved will certainly not be appreciated by the vast majority of those passing above, whether as pedestrians or in vehicles.

Ivor Goodsite Hoarding Design Competition

Congratulations to Preston Street Primary School


The site management team were delighted to host pupils and teachers from Preston Street Primary, onsite to present the pupils with their runners up award for the Ivor Goodsite Hoarding competition. Each child was presented with a certificate, medal and Ivor Goodsite fun pack.

The Primary 6/7 class enjoying seeing what our expert engineers do at work and we hope to have inspired them to become the next generation of construction professionals!

King’s Own Scottish Borders Memorial Restoration

Creation of mould by local artist for the bronze plaque

The South African War Memorial (known as the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, or KOSB) is situated on the masonry plinth of the South East pier and is Category A Listed. A conservation assessment by Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and the KOSB association in 2012 concluded that the monument was subjected to extensive soiling and biological growth resulting in disaggregation of the sandstone and loss of carved details

Works have commenced in relation to the refurbishment with the off site fabrication of the new bronze plaque for the memorial. This is a difficult proces which involves creating moulds from clays and silicone, which are then used to form the plaque.

In the coming months, we will commence the erection of the access scaffold for the monument which will allow the restoration works to commence. In advance of the works commencing onsite, we will take a sample of the exisitng stone to have it petrographically tested.

The Building Stones of Edinburgh book states that North Bridge is built of Maidencraig stone, therefore we will take a sample of the existing stone on the monument to have it analysed petrographically which will allow a recommendation for the required replacement stone. It is important to use the most compatible stone petrographically, rather than for appearance, to avoid accelerating decay of the surrounding stones (which has happened on early conservation work around the city).

To clean the monument, a superheated water delivery system called DOFF will be utilised. The process utilises a gentle form of steam cleaning used primarily for stonework, with temperatures up to 150°C. DOFF cleaning is far more gentle than any other conventional form of steam cleaning. The advantage with DOFF is the surface does not suffer any damage, saturation or thermal shock as a result of the process.

What's Happening Next?

Honor Goodsite’s Big Build Design Challenge

The North Bridge Refurbishment project is taking part in the Honor Goodsite Big Build Design Challenge. This involves working with local schools to design, build and decorate a structure using recycled materials. Our team of STEM Ambassadors and civil engineers will be visiting classrooms to share their expertise with the pupils involved.

If you are interested in getting your school involved, please contact Rebecca Foster on 0131 285 0121, before Friday 15th November 2019.

Contact Details

If you have any questions related to this newsletter or the North Bridge Refurbishment Project, please contact Rory McFadden on:

M: 07784 211 459

E: rory.mcfadden@balfourbeatty.com