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18 May 2020
Forth Bridge - North Approach Blasting and Painting Works

Letter to Network Rail


On behalf of the North Queensferry Community Council, I should wish to convey the Community Council's thanks to you for the information which you have provided in the form of Data Sheets and Method Statements for the above Works. This is most helpful in understanding the nature and scope of the works proposed.


As the Method Statements were created prior to the Corona Virus outbreak, I trust these documents will be revised to incorporate the requirements for social distancing and the various other measures needed to meet the Scottish Government Guidelines when work commences.


As you will readily appreciate, there is some concern from the residents of North Queensferry, especially those who reside in close proximity to the bridge, regarding the impending Works. However, with collaboration and co-operation amongst Network Rail, the Contractors and the residents, we hope that it will be possible to achieve a solution that meets the requirements of the work and the concerns of the residents.


Those concerns are as follows:


Working Hours


Network Rail issued information and held a Drop-In Session at the Ferrybridge Hotel in North Queensferry on Wednesday 26 February 2020. The working hours, as notified at that time, reflected a Monday to Friday operation with eight hours of working each day.


We now note that the Method Statements clearly state that, in addition to the normal weekday working, there will also be weekend working. Added to that, there will be some 141 individual Possessions above trackside for night working, but no working hours in connection with that are stated. In addition, the shutdown occasioned by the coronavirus regulations will have caused a substantial delay in the commencement of the works and there is an issue of whether, to bring the works back on track, the revised Method Statements may result in a substantial increase in projected working hours. You will appreciate that there is some concern that these matters either individually or taken together could, in effect, result in works potentially extending for up to 24 hours per day for up to 7 days per week. You will, I appreciate, understand that such extended hours of working, should they occur, would not be acceptable to the residents, nor, indeed, the public in general.


We suggest that it would plainly be preferable, in order to give the residents some respite from what they are being called upon to tolerate in order for the works to be completed, to restrict the normal working pattern to one comprised of eight hour shifts from Monday to Friday each week, although we appreciate that above trackside working will be necessary during periods when there are few, or no train journeys, most likely at weekends. However, such work should be carefully planned to keep work and noise levels to a minimum so as to reduce the inconvenience to those living close to the bridge. Advance notice of any such work by appropriate means (flyers, the village noticeboards, websites and emails) would be clearly be desirable.


Although the proposal may extend the overall programme duration, when compared with continuous, or near-continuous working, there are obvious savings in labour costs by reason that overtime, especially at weekends, attracts a high premium.




Noise pollution associated with the works is a serious concern and operations such as blasting and grit removal will create a noise level above what otherwise might be normal, especially if such works take place at night when ambient noise levels are much lower. In these circumstances, the following questions arise:


  1. What steps is Network Rail taking to avoid noise pollution for the local residents and the general public?


  1. Will Network Rail position noise monitoring equipment in proximity to the bridge?


  1. Will noisy operations be restricted to core weekday hours?


  1. Will any restriction be placed on the duration of continuous working when undertaking such operations?



Lead Pollution


The Method Statements include the provision of decontamination units and blood sampling along with a number of control measures to comply with the Control of Lead At Work (CLAW) 2002 Regulations for the operatives, but there is no mention on the wider effects should the lead dust escape into the atmosphere.


Although the Works will be encapsulated, does Network Rail have effective procedures to ensure that bystanders or residents are fully protected from the risk of harm arising from exposure to such pollution, either for a short period, or, in the case of inhabitants of nearby properties, possibly for an extended period?


Silica and other forms of Pollution:


A matter causing particular anxiety to several of the residents whose properties are in close proximity to the bridge is the use of blasting materials containing silicates. One resident has stated to us that “the British Government had actually recently banned all silica based blasting compounds from being used, as they had been linked to various underlining health issues, including asthma and breathing difficulties.”


We note that the relevant Technical Data Sheet makes reference to the prohibition on the use of materials likely to cause silicosis, such as natural silica sand and ground quartz type rocks, all as contained in The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (S.I. 1999/437), but we also note that the silicates to be employed are not silica sand but iron silicate and/or calcium silicate.


We note that the 1999 Regulations have been revoked and replaced by The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002/2667) which were subsequently amended in 2003 and 2004. I observe in passing that the reference in the documentation to regulatory provisions which were revoked 18 years ago does not inspire confidence that the details of the working methods set out in the method statements are fully compliant with current regulations. Are you able to reassure us that the working methods are, in fact, fully compliant?


In any event, if one has regard to the presently applicable regulations, one sees that in terms of regulation 4(1) there is prohibited under paragraph 2 of column 1 of schedule 2: “Sand or other substance containing free silica” for (in terms of column 2), “Use as an abrasive for blasting articles in any blasting apparatus.” There is in paragraph 3, a prohibition on certain substances containing silica, but only in respect of “use as a parting material in connection with the making of metal castings.”


In these circumstances, it may be that the use of the substances listed in the method statements is not prohibited for blasting purposes, but you will understand that the residents in question feel considerable anxiety for their health and well-being in light of their belief as communicated to us. Are you able to reassure the residents that the compounds to be used do not fall within the prohibition contained in Schedule 2? In any event, quite apart from the question of lawfulness under the regulations, there is a real concern over whether the blasting material might escape into the atmosphere and cause harm.




Full encapsulation is normal practice when grit blasting, but it would appear that Network Rail expect the encapsulation specified to trap the lead particles, dust, and other pollutants such as the blasting materials. However, in the normal course of events, encapsulation tends to degrade as a result both of general work activities and of weather conditions.


In these circumstances, there is a concern that the encapsulation as proposed would not be fully effective to contain the harmful substances referred to above. Are you able to provide  some explanation as to how it is expected that the encapsulation will be effective in fully containing these harmful substances?


Restrictions on Movement


Can Network Rail please elaborate on the Note in Method Statement DISL/MS/001/01A for surface preparation and painting works, which makes reference to certain restrictions on the public during the preparatory works.



I hope that these specific queries will provide a useful template for our future discussions, and, once you have had an opportunity to let us have your considered response, it might be helpful for there to be a meeting amongst the interested parties, including local residents, to discuss the way forward.


North Queensferry Community Centre is presently closed by reason of the Coronavirus regulations and mail is not being collected. Therefore I suggest that you respond to me by email at nqccsecretary@livingwater.org.uk You can also contact me directly on 01383 415215.


Many thanks for your willingness to engage with the Community Council, and I hope that it will not long before the above concerns are fully addressed.



Yours sincerely




David Shields,


North Queensferry Community Council.






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