At 137m tall and 2872m long, the Queen Elizabeth II toll bridge in Dartford is
the second biggest cable-stayed road bridge in Britain – behind the Severn Crossing. It
provides a vital link between the Northern and Southern sections of the M25 across the
River Thames and if it were to shut a large part of London and the UK economy would
quite literally come to a standstill.
As with any large structure or building the bridge needs regular cleaning and
maintenance – sometimes even a full overhaul of its operating systems. This was indeed
the case when the bridge’s existing aviation lighting reached its end of life and needed
bringing into line with new civil aviation legislation.
Industrial lighting solutions specialist, the Oldham-based Delta Group is a world leader
in developing and installing bespoke aircraft warning light systems. Its subsidiary
company Delta Obstruction Lighting (DOL) was invited to tender by the QEII’s
controlling authority in August 2008 and was awarded the contract in September 2008 to
design, manufacture and install a system that went above and beyond civil aviation
DOL managing director, Tariq Mukhtar said: “We were delighted to be awarded the QEII
job because it was a mark of how far we’ve come and of what we are capable of. From
design to installation there have been many challenges but at each stage our talented
workforce has adapted well, providing a product and a service that is second to none.”
DOL’s brief was to design, manufacture and install a lighting system that was compatible
the bridge’s remote-controlled supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)
framework with six lights at each fixing point lasting at least 100,000 hours. DOL
assigned itself the designing and manufacturing phases with sister company Delta
International Steeplejacks (DSJ) commissioned for the installation.
Far from being the highest structure Delta has worked on, the QEII Bridge has certainly
been one of its most challenging with one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes running
under it, Britain’s busiest motorway running over it and one of Europe’s busiest
flightpaths passing directly above it.
From the signing of the contract right through to the job being signed off, challenges
were a plenty. Delta departments including design, manufacturing, logistics and
installation were all effectively called into action at various stages in the process,
demonstrating the company’s unrivalled ability to adapt to a project’s changing needs.
DOL’s initial scouting mission illustrated this perfectly. The original brief was to provide a
single duty light at each fixing point but DOL’s design team’s proposal to incorporate
both duty and standby at each fixing point was eagerly accepted by the bridge’s
Their initial plan was to fix two LED lights side-by-side but on viewing the fixing points
they discovered one light would block out the glare from the other. They also realised
that red lights carry major significance to shipping so, in order to prevent a potential
disaster, it was imperative that no glare could be seen by ships passing underneath the
At first they considered sitting the duty light on top of the standby but that would have
taken ten weeks to develop and they only had two. Their ingenious solution was to
design a single light where both LED lights sat within one casing unit. The shipping issue
was overcome by reflecting the light so the red glare was directed to the side and
Once finalised, the design was submitted for production and
thanks to the state of the art
manufacturing facilities at Delta’s Wrigley street factory in Oldham – the Dual WL2500
(duty and standby) medium intensity aviation obstruction light was born.
“At our factory we have the ability to adapt to design changes extremely quickly, an area
in which our competitors struggle. We managed to turn the WL2500 around very quickly
and are very proud of the finished product. To my knowledge, this product has not been
developed before anywhere in the world, it’s an industry first,” said Tariq.
With the product designed and manufactured and logistics in place, a DSJ team headed
down to London in late December to implement the job’s final phase. Deadlines were
tight. The initial installation – one light at mid level on each of the four towers and two
further lights sat atop of the Southwest and Northeast towers – was scheduled for five
With 180,000 cars passing over the bridge daily, access was a serious consideration.
Each pillar had a lift and guarded platforms on mid and upper levels so once inside the
tower working was relatively safe but in order to enter the tower each morning the inside
lane of the A282 had to be closed and that was a decision not taken lightly by the
As the previous system was failing and outdated, it was absolutely necessary to gain
access to the pillars, so authorisation was given to close the inside lane on one of the
carriageways for ten minutes each morning and again in the evening when the team
needed to disembark. Each time, temporary speed limits were introduced and a
roadblock of six highway trucks ushered vehicles into the central lanes to protect Delta’s
Once inside the tower the team took the lift to either the mid or upper levels and began
work. They used the electrical feed from the bridge’s previous system to power the
WL2500s. They connected the light, earthed it and attached it with bracket and pole
fixings. At the end of each day they radioed the bridge authorities and headed down to
ground level to disembark.
Fortunately, despite a powerful North Sea wind and the biting cold, the job progressed
well and by the end of the five days all lights were installed to an extremely high
standard and the system had passed the Institute of Engineering and Technology IET
BS 7671 17th edition – a British standard.
“Our lads have installed systems on BT towers in the Outer Hebrides and many other tall
structures around the world so they are well used to unfavourable conditions. In
December, the main issue was time. We aimed to be off the bridge before nightfall each
day but the short days put extra pressure on us,” said Tariq.
The team have since been called back twice to overcome snags relating to interfacing
with the previous system. The system has now passed a function test and testing to
ensure that it has fully interfaced with the bridge’s control tower and has been signed off
by the client.
“Its very important we continue to take on huge structures like the QEII bridge and do a
first class job. It is the ultimate shop window for us as it demonstrates to millions that our
products are of excellent build quality and our workforce is highly skilled at fitting them,”