Birmingham City Centre canal. Image: Jill Jennings. Supplied courtesy of Canal and Rivers Trust.
Birmingham City Centre canal. Image: Jill Jennings. Supplied courtesy of Canal and Rivers Trust.

Nearly £90 million investment for UK canals

3 min


Engineering work designed to ‘protect and preserve’ waterways

The country’s leading waterways charity is announcing a colossal engineering work’s programme to try to ensure the continued future of the country’s 250 years old canal network.

The Canal and River Trust aims to carry out more than 450 engineering projects over the course of 2000 miles of UK waterways. The programme will cost £89 million. It will include the making and installation of 123 lock gates.  

It aims to complete more than 1,000 ‘reactive repairs’ and will continue the ‘vital programme of works to its canal-feeding reservoirs.’

The Trust says that the network is being used and enjoyed by more boats and people than ever before.

As such, it aims to continue its work over the current financial year to try to ensure canals remain safe and available for users – especially as the planet starts to face the realities of climate change. 

The charity explains the cost of maintaining the network on a year on year basis is increasing. This is due to the age of the network, the impact of inflation and the additional expense of responding to more frequent and extreme weather events. 

‘With canals so popular and serving society in so many ways, it is more important than ever that we are relentless in our efforts to keep them safe and available,’ says Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal and River Trust.

‘Whilst our campaign to Keep Canals Alive asks all those who use and enjoy the canals, to write to their local MP to secure their long-term future, in the immediate term the vital maintenance to keep canals safe must continue.’

Resilience of supply

Central to the upcoming programme is the ongoing work to help ensure canals can be topped up with continued investment to safeguard the water supply from the Trust’s reservoirs – the oldest in the country.

The Trust looks after 71 reservoirs and it’s earmarked £26.5m of investment for just over half of them. Work is scheduled to include spillway replacements and the upgrading of the capacity to ‘draw down’ water levels.

It’s envisaged there will also be improvements to access and to help to reduce leakage rates.

There will also be repairs along canal beds, canal walls and also at locks with the aim of ensuring millions of litres of water aren’t lost from the network’s ageing structures.

The Trust is continuing to invest in further works to improve navigation, carrying out a £6.5 million dredging programme. This will include 11 routine maintenance projects, three national programmes, spot dredging and dredging to canal feeders.

‘Over the next year that programme of work ranges from the largest-scale repairs, such as at our reservoirs, to the more modest maintenance that makes such a big difference to boaters’ experiences, like fixing a leaking lock gate or our rolling dredging programme.’

‘Our expert teams of colleagues, contractors and volunteers will be working hard all year round to fight for the future of our waterways.’

There will be a total of £1.8 million allocated to dredging at Gloucester and Sharpness docks to tackle high levels of silt.

A further £2 million is planned for stabilisation and leak sealing on four embankments with £2 million earmarked for improvements to five mechanical and electrical structures.

Nearly £1.5 million is planned to be spent on the refurbishment of seven bridges with £1 million put aside to repair six culverts.

There are also two programmes focusing on reducing leaks in critical areas and two on the resilience of river sluices supporting water control on river navigations.

External funding is supporting the continued restoration of the Montgomery Canal and a programme of works to the iconic Anderton Boat Lift following recent repairs.

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