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Blackfriars Station becomes world's largest solar bridge

The platforms of Blackfriars Station in London span the Thames, creating a unique challenge for any work there. Eurosafe UK installed safety systems for carrying out maintenance work on the station’s solar panels.

A period of major engineering work was completed at London’s Blackfriars Station in February, which included installing a solar roof and adding new platforms.

Eurosafe UK installed the safety systems for Prater Roofing, providing maintenance access for the roof’s solar panels.

Working above the Thames

“The fact that the station is on a bridge was a big problem,” says Eurosafe managing director Gavin Ellis.

“It meant that all of the materials had to come in from one end or the other. Coupled with the central London location, it meant moving materials and equipment was a major challenge.”

More than 4,400 photovoltaic panels were installed on the station’s roof, making it the largest ‘solar bridge’ in the world. The panels are designed to provide up to 50 per cent of the station’s energy needs.

“The roof is effectively made up of over 100 individual smaller roofs,” Mr Ellis says. “Each one of these has a gutter, louvre glazing to let lighting in, and the PV panels.”

Limited roof space

As well as the installation of the panels, general access was required for their future cleaning and maintenance.

“This was, logistically speaking, the most challenging project Eurosafe has ever worked on”

Gavin Ellis, Eurosafe

“It was a relatively simple contract to begin with, but the client wanted to maximise the size of the PV panels,” Mr Ellis explains.

This meant space to move around on the roof was limited, with only the gutter providing an option for access.

“Gutters obviously aren’t the best place to walk around on,” Mr Ellis says. “So we devised a special bespoke hinged walkway system for workers to gain access.”

Adjustments for maintenance and cleaning

The walkway is hinged so that it can be lifted up when the gutters require cleaning.

A socket at the end of each roof was also installed for a removable handrail to be put in place when major maintenance work is required.

“The architect didn’t want a permanent handrail,” Mr Ellis says. “For low-frequency safety work, such as general maintenance, a cable and PPE are acceptable safety measures.

“But when major repairs are needed, such as replacing all of the PV panels, for example, then the handrail is put in place.”

The client’s need for the PV panels to take up as much space as possible meant the walkways were smaller than they normally would be. “This was technically challenging and required a lot of thinking to come up with the bespoke solution that we went with,” Mr Ellis says.

The station was completed in February, having been open to the public throughout most of the works.

“This was, logistically speaking, the most challenging project Eurosafe has ever worked on,” Mr Ellis says. “Providing safe access to the roof was difficult, but all parties worked together to come up with the solution.”

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