As well as the closures, Scottish Canals has announced some changes to operating days and times across the Lowland canals meaning access along much of the Lowlands canals will be restricted this year. The impact this is likely to have on the hire boat trade is significant, and it will also affect all privately owned boaters based on the two canals. If sections of canal are closed for any significant amount of time, other structures such as nearby locks and other moveable bridges will deteriorate through lack of use, resulting in even more funds required for repairs in the future.
Scottish Canals cite customer demand as the justification for these reduced operating days, but we believe that the previous reductions in operating days and ongoing lack of maintenance has contributed to the reduced demand.
In a letter to Scottish Canals, we outlined why we thought the indefinite closure of the coast to coast canal was unacceptable, and we are due to meet with them to discuss further. Our National Chairman, Ivor Caplan, will repeat the call for repairs to these bridges to be carried out as a matter of urgency in order for Scottish Canals to fulfil its statutory requirement as navigation authority to keep the restored Lowland canals in full working order.
As a follow up to their original announcement and subsequent to further technical investigations, Scottish Canals have said that Twechar Lift Bridge could have a temporary repair, which would allow it to be safely operated on a limited basis over the summer. Bonnybridge Lift Bridge may be able to be operated on a one-off or very occasional basis. Scottish Canals states that it is unlikely they will find a solution that allows normal use until additional funds are available, so these arrangements are to enable any boat owner who is currently affected to move their boat to a different location should they wish to do so.
The changes to operating days and times are available on the Scottish Canals website.
Updates on our discussions will be included in our next issue of Bulletin as we are treating this news as a priority.
Photo-top: IWA has been made aware that at least two of the traditional manually operated bascule bridges on the Forth & Clyde Canal are currently out of action due to worn parts requiring new castings, including Bard Avenue Bascule Bridge shown here. Photo by Jonathan Mosse.