The previous article (Railway Strategies magazine,
February/March 2010) entitled ‘Helping rail engineers to prevent corrosion’ re-stated the cost of corrosion to the UK as being a staggering 3.6 per cent of the gross national product (GNP) and although these figures were produced by a National Report from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) published in 1971, a second repeat survey was produced in a report published some 30 years later in 2001; this second report showed that the cost of corrosion to the UK was still of this significant order, 3.5 per cent GNP – literally billions of pounds annually.
Now that the UK is in the grips of a financial strait-jacket, it is even more important that careful cost controls are implemented on both new infrastructure as well as maintaining existing structures.
The original DTI report stated that 25 per cent of this cost could be saved by “more awareness in selection, specification and control of the application of protective coatings
”. The ICATS (Industrial Coating Applicator Training Scheme) initiative in training and qualifying coating applicators, set up by the Institute of Corrosion and with the support of Network Rail, has met with only mixed success and the drawbacks relate to the element of self-certification by the contractors. In the 2007 Government White Paper, ‘Delivering a Sustainable Railway
’, the concerns relating to self-certification were clearly stated, although it may have been lost in the 464 page report, but on page 44 it stated that, “it also provides evidence of flawed management of teams and of contractors, including the dubious practice of self-certification
A further initiative now being put together jointly by the Steel Construction Institute (SCI), the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BSCA) and TATA Steel, is a webbased training course for engineers, architects and specifiers, which will help the engineering management on coating projects to ensure that the self-certification procedure does not allow, “the dubious practice of self-certification” to become “a flawed practice
This new training initiative produced by the BCSA/SCI/TATA consortium is also being supported by a more in-depth qualification and training programme, based on a private initiative called Corrodere, which has been introduced by MPI to cover all those involved in the protective coatings industry, including applicators and specifiers, which results in a Diploma for successful registrants.
Refurbishment of the Forth Rail Bridge has recently been completed, putting an end to the old saying – “It’s like painting the Forth Rail Bridge, once they get to the end they have to start all over again.” The major refurbishment of this old and famous structure, which was completed at the end of 2011 by an ICATS-registered company with ICATS qualified operatives, is expected to have a coating life to first maintenance of 25 – 30 years. The understanding, the care, the products and quality control on the work on this structure, sets a target figure for coating projects on both new and existing structures, as part of the railway strategy for the future.
Similar examples of this type of understanding, care and attention have been provided in the refurbishment and extensions of St. Pancras International station and
the more recent King’s Cross station extension, recently completed at a cost
of £500 million.
These successful and carefully put together projects can be contrasted with other projects where attention to detail and technical care and knowledge have not been recognised or implemented. There have been premature and costly failures, examples of which can be seen in the station on HS2 at Ashford as well as bridges and viaducts where breakdown of the coatings has become evident in less than five years, resulting in very costly premature refurbishment work.
It is therefore of vital importance for technical, and more importantly, financial reasons to make sure that all those involved in repainting projects on steel structures,get it right first time
, thus saving vast sums of money and preventing unnecessary and frustrating delays to the travelling public.
The author David H Deacon is the founder and director of the UK’s Steel Protection Consultancy. He is a Past President of the Institute of Corrosion and was presented with a unique lifetime achievement award for his services over 40 years to that professional specialist body. SPC has been retained in the Forth Rail, St Pancras and King’s Cross Projects.