Network Rail has announced plans for a £10m refurbishment of Brunel's famous Royal Albert bridge across the River Tamar, and will soon be advertising for a contractor to carry out the work.
The 151 year-old structure, which carries trains from Plymouth into Cornwall, will be strengthened, restored and repainted over the next three years.
Corroded elements on the bridge will be repaired and extra efforts will also be taken to restore Brunel's original design. These include removing redundant bridge elements - lower diagonal bracings - installed in the 1970s and using special bolts that are similar in design to Victorian rivets.
The rail landmark and gateway into Cornwall will also be spruced up with a new lick of paint to significantly improve the surrounding environment. A total area of 20,000 sq m – about three football pitches – with 30 coats of paint on the main spans will be blast removed before being re-painted over, using a more effective three-coat painting system.
The Royal Albert bridge will be painted goose grey, so that it is compatible with the colour of the bridge when it was listed and the bridge's aesthetic can also be sustained for a longer period of time.
The structure was listed Grade 1 in 1952 by the English Heritage, which has also backed the improvement scheme.
The Royal Albert bridge has been painted over on 20 occasions since it was completed in 1859.
Network Rail is planning to start work on site by the end of the year.