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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 18:13 GMT
Bridge repainting nearly finished
A bird's eye view from the bridge - from a maintenance platform above the Menai Straits.

The repainting of the Menai suspension bridge is close to completion, nine months after work started.

The 2m project - the first major facelift for 65 years - caused major traffic problems for those crossing to and from Anglesey.

Local businesses which lost trade are appealing for a reduction in their rates, because work lasted so long.

However, contractors said they were pleased with progress, despite days being lost to bad weather each month.

Thomas Telford's bridge has been repainted many times since it was built in 1826.

On this occasion, it had to be completely stripped back to the bare metal because so many layers of paint had built up.

'A few grey hairs'

Bad weather has meant the job took nearly a month longer than originally predicted.

"Thankfully we found no surprises when work started, but it did confirm the old paint system had failed completely" said engineer in charge William Day.

Bangor-based Mr Day admits the contract has given him "a few grey hairs" but added that he was impressed with Thomas Telford's work and described the bridge as "iconic."

"It's taken so long really because it is the first time in 65 years for the bridge to be stripped right back," he said.

"We have lost a few days every month because of the weather, but people have no idea of what's involved in painting something like this."

The paint used on the bridge "cures" rather than "dries" which meant that work was affected by humidity as well as cold weather.

The Menai Bridge
2m project paid for by UK Highways
5,000 litres of weatherdeck grey paint was used in four layers
Radiator rollers used for hard to reach areas
300 tonnes of scaffolding used
15,000 tonnes of old paint removed
30 tonnes of lead from old paint disposed of by specialist waste management
Bridge moves 500-600 millimetres up, down and sideways

In all, 44 different "enclosures" had to be built on and around the bridge.

"Each time we had to assess the effect of any wind damage these enclosures could cause, and it was quite a complicated process," said Mr Day.

Wind damage caused damage during the bridge's construction and within a month of opening and the present deck level is the fourth since the bridge was first built.

Local businesses said they were still counting the cost of lost trade.

"Takings are definitely down and people might not come back, because they do tend to get into a routine," said Vaughan Lloyd Williams, owner of Menai Bakery.

Glyn Evans, who runs a sewing shop in the town, added: "It's so hard to put a figure on what we've lost, but I've had 18 years in business and this year has not been easy".

Rate rebate

Chief engineer William Day, right, with Kelvin Owen, whose firm restored Telford's gates

In a bid to recoup some of their losses, some traders have asked for a reduction in business rates.

"We are waiting for a judgement on that, and we can just hope to go back to how we were," Mr Lloyd Williams added.

The actual process of painting the bridge has been in four parts, undertaken by a Birkenhead-based company, Roy Hankinson Ltd.

Terry O'Connell from Wallasey - a painter for 17 years - has been part of the 15-strong team since February 2005.

"This has been an excellent job, it's gone really well," he said.

As well as scaffolders from Glasgow, local firms have also been employed.

"This has been very challenging, trying to keep as much as possible to the original," said Kelvin Owen of K Owen Steel Application from Llanrhuddlad, Anglesey.

His company has restored all the original panels as well as two distinctive "sun beam" Telford gates on the Bangor side of the bridge.

The bridge is expected to reopen to all traffic on Sunday afternoon.

A one-way system has been in operation since February.

In Pictures: Painting the bridge
08 Dec 05 |  In Pictures
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