To keep the bridge in good condition and able to handle the growing freight task and commuter traffic, it undergoes regular maintenance programs, the latest of which is seeing leading specialist access solutions company, BASE Industries, heavily involved.
BASE Industries is in the midst of a three year project in which it is constructing specialised, high-tech scaffolds to allow contractors to access the underside of the bridge to perform industrial cleaning and repainting works.
Three years may seem like a long time for this work, but considering the scale of the project – the bridge is over 2.5 kilometres in length and over 37 metres wide – the timing is quite impressive and has required BASE Industries to operate teams of between 15 to 22 members on site, at times over two shifts.
To meet the needs of the project, BASE Industries developed a range of layered wing and spine scaffolds. These weigh around 24 and 35 tonnes respectively and are constructed on the ground before being winched into position.
A time consuming aspect of the project is that once a span is completed, each scaffold is again lowered to the ground, disassembled, moved to the next span, reassembled and again winched into place.
The BASE team also had to address other challenges in meeting the needs of the project. For example, one of the bridge’s pillars is in the Yarra River, so there was no space at its base to dismantle and reassemble the scaffolding for the next span. To overcome this, the company designed and fabricated a cantilever structure around the pillar, to provide a sufficient area for the scaffolds to be reconstructed.
Another consideration on the project – particularly for the middle spans of the bridge – was clearance for the shipping lane 58 metres below. While contractors worked on this section of the bridge, BASE maintained constant communication with the Port of Melbourne and harbourmaster, shifting the scaffolds along the span as required, so as not to hinder ship movements.
In designing and fabricating all of the scaffolding for the project, BASE engineers also had to consider the wind speeds the equipment would be subjected to, while also carefully monitoring wind and other weather conditions on site each day to ensure the highest safety levels.
BASE Industries CEO, Mike Adshead, said the Westgate Bridge project was typical of the work the company enjoyed being involved in.
“The Westgate Bridge project provides the opportunity to showcase how BASE Industries can providing clients with a complete access solution,” Mike said.
“From scaffold design and engineering, to fabrication, installation and ongoing operation, BASE Industries has all the skills and expertise in-house to deliver a complete, seamless service.
“While some other access suppliers would baulk at this project because of the complexity and technical nature of the job, these are the kind of challenges we relish at BASE Industries.”