June breakdowns, sinkings, gales, fire & pollution!

June is only part way through but sunken boats, windy weather, failures and damage, fire and pollution have all already made it a busy month for CRT maintenance workers, faced with such a wide variety of problems!

Sunken boat in Thurlwood Top LockThere’s been a spate of boat sinkings including a hire craft at Cholmondeston Lock on the Shropshire Union Canal, another in Thurlwood Top Lock on the Trent & Mersey Canal and a sunken boat which partially blocked navigation for a few days on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal near Alvechurch.

The sunken boat in Thurlwood Top Lock (image right courtesy RCR) was raised within 24 hours by River Canal Rescue. RCR managing director Stephanie Horton explains: “While in the filling lock, a boater realised his rudder was stuck in the lock gates. By the time he got his friend’s attention, who was operating the lock, it had filled and completely submerged the 55ft, 6ft 10” craft.  The CRT’s decision to close the lock and manage public access was greatly appreciated; it ensured the area was secure and safe for us to work. This is a classic example of our ethos in action which is to get boaters moving as soon as possible with minimum disruption and cost and to keep the navigation clear, reducing the likelihood of further incidents.”

Anderton Boat Lift (below) was closed for a week at the start of the month, severing the connection between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey. It was described as a serious engineering failure, causing a Health & Safety problem and boaters had to wait while the replacement part for this iconic British waterway engineering monument was being sent from Switzerland!

Anderton Boat Lift

Windy weather and plenty of fresh leaves brought down a considerable number of trees causing temporary blockages on canals from the Caldon to the Oxford. There has also been the usual failures of and damage to bridges including on the Rochdale Canal and Kennet and Avon Navigation, and to lock balance beams, wash walls and cills such as on the BCN’s Titford Canal flight. Some have caused longer stoppages, including the closure of Aston locks on the Montgomery Canal, or have required Canal & River Trust (CRT) staff to assist boaters passing through, as on the Welford Arm of the Grand Union Canal. On the Environment Agency (EA) waterways there have been mechanical problems with the gates at St. Ives Lock on the River Great Ouse and Black Sluice lock on the River Witham has been out of action.

Following a tractor collision the medieval bridge in Bidford-on-Avon is closed to road traffic and needs to be partially dismantled to carry out repairs. And a fire in a canalside building closed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and towpath in Wigan for a few days until the unsafe building had been demolished.

There were major pollution incidents too, one on the Nottingham Canal section of the River Trent and another on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal. A police investigation was launched after a fuel pipe going over the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal at Gayton Marina was drilled into, in what was thought to be an attempted theft that went wrong. As a result around 50,000 litres of kerosene leaked into the water. The fuel mainly sat on top of the water and was contained with floating barriers, which helped to reduce the impact on local wildlife, before being removed. Emergency services arranged temporary off the water accommodation for boat crews and ABC Leisure’s Gayton Marina had to be closed and sealed until the all-clear was given.

Thanks to Waterway Images, RCR, IWA and CRT stoppages for information.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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