More than £16.5m was spent on improvement works on canal infrastructure and operational equipment. Works included major investment from replacing lock gates on the Caledonian and Crinan Canals to restoring the Union Canal following a breach in August 2020 and renewing the coating on the world’s only rotating boat lift, The Falkirk Wheel. In addition, dredging has been carried out to clear canals, drawing on £1m in funding provided by the Scottish government.
Following the completion of winter works on all four of Scotland’s navigable canals, the Caledonian, Crinan, Forth & Clyde and Union Canals are now open to navigation. Limited navigation will take place on the Forth & Clyde Canal until the 28th May when sea to sea navigation will resume.
The annual winter improvement works are carried out in accordance with Scottish Canals’ Asset Management Strategy. The works are designed to ensure that impacts to boating movements are minimised.
“Our mission at Scottish Canals is to deliver world class waterways and the completion of winter works across our network ensures that our canals remain open, vibrant and able to welcome 22 million visits each year,” said CEO Catherine Topley. “Our improvement works ensure that Scotland’s canal network is not only fit for purpose but also enables future investment in tourism and businesses across the country safeguarding local economies.”
On the Crinan Canal, Scottish Canals began phase one of a multi-year programme of works which included the task of dewatering sections of the canal to complete a series of lock gates replacements. The £3.7m improvement works have seen new lock gates installed at locks one to four as future proofing for another 40 to 50 years this part of what Scottish Canals described as ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut’.
The lock gates at Gairlochy were the key focus on the Caledonian Canal. The 30-year-old structures which hold back Loch Lochy were reaching the end of their life. The £2m project has secured the ability to hold back 46 million cubic metres of water and improves operational reliability.
On the Forth & Clyde Canal, which stretches from Grangemouth in the east to Bowling in the west, the ongoing £12.8m Stockingfield Bridge project funded by Sustrans and Glasgow City Council has taken centre stage. The bridge will complete a missing link in an active travel route. Due to the ongoing works at Stockingfield Bridge there will be limited navigation around the area until 28th May.
The Union Canal has seen reinstatement works and the start of a series of climate change resilience interventions through a £6.5m Scottish government funding package provided following the breach in the canal last August as a result of extreme weather conditions. The resilience works will contribute to protecting the structure of the canal for years to come as climate change becomes a real threat to the inland waterways.
In addition, a series of access improvement works have taken place across both the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal, funded by Sustrans. Almost 100 prioritised sites have undergone improvements ensuring that the canal towpath is accessible.
In the coming months Scottish Canals will also be opening new destinations across the Forth & Clyde Canal including the Claypits urban nature reserve in North Glasgow in June and the Bowline at Bowling Harbour, a linear park based on the New York Highline in summer.