Pennine Waterways News

Friday 28 March 2008

Another Problem at Plank Lane

There has been another incident at Plank Lane Lift Bridge on the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Earlier this week a barrier at the bridge was damaged and was failing to open.

The bridge was closed to boat traffic for around 24 hours until the barrier was repaired. The bridge re-opened to navigation on 27th March.

In 2006 the bridge was closed for a time after the counterweight fell off. [see report and photos].

Thursday 20 March 2008

Rochdale Electrics Fixed

The electrical problems on the Rochdale Canal have now been fixed.

Vandalism at Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge (Chadderton) and an electrical probolem at Library Lock (Todmorden Guillotine Lock) had meant boaters needed to call BW to come and operate these structures. [See earlier report.]

Fortunately BW has managed to get these problems sorted out in time for the long Easter weekend, so both structures are now boater-operable again.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Tameside Canals Festival Sunk

The annual Tameside Canals Festival will not take place this year as the voluntary organising committee has been disbanded.

The event, which has taken place around Portland Basin at the junction of the Ashton and Peak Forest Canals, has attracted tens of thousands of local families and many boaters over the years.

The event has been taking place since 1975, and some committee members have been involved from the beginning!

Vice Chair, Hazel Maskell said: "Our Committee was aging and several members had already decided to step down after last July's event and so, unfortunately, the remaining members have decided to call it a day."

The first canal festival at Portland Basin was organised by the Inland Waterways Association's Manchester branch, the North Cheshire Cruising Club and the Peak Forest Canal Society to highlight the restoration potential of the nearby Hudderfield Narrow Canal. In later years, the festival was organised by the Huddersfield Canal Society. Since 2001, the event has been run by volunteers supporting and raising funds for Willow Wood Hospice.

"Unfortunately, the weather was particularly poor for the Festival weekend last year," explained Hazel. "Willow Wood decided to withdraw from any involvement in future Festivals and without their charitable status, it made it difficult for us to continue."

If any other local community group wish to discuss taking over the organisation of future Festivals, they can contact Hazel on 01457 837826.

See pictures from past Tameside Canals Festivals.

Power Problems on Rochdale

Further problems lie in wait for boaters travelling on the Rochdale Canal.

The Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge, between locks 75 and 76 in Chadderton, has suffered an act of vandalism in which the key barrel has been damaged.

Repairs have been ordered, but due to the damage, British Waterways assistance is required to operate the bridge (see below).

A similar problem awaits travellers at Library Lock 19, the guillotine lock, at Todmorden. In this instance, because of an electrical failure, BW has for safety reasons isolated the electrical mechanism to the key barrel.

Boaters requiring passage through either bridge should call BW for assistance.

In office hours between 9 am and 4 pm, please call the Wigan office on 01942 405700. Outside of these hours, please call Free Phone Canals on 0800 4799947.

(Please note the Wigan office will close for the Easter weekend at 5pm on Thursday 20 March and will re-open at 8:30am on Tuesday 25 March.)

Friday 14 March 2008

Another Macclesfield Wall Collapse

Photo: Debby Francis

The force of gravity and the action of water penetration have once again combined to bring down a section of retaining wall onto the towpath of the Macclesfield Canal.

This week's collapse was between Bridges 40 and 41, less than half a mile south of Macclesfield Canal Centre and Hovis Mill.

It is only a few yards from the spot where another wall dropped onto the towpath several years ago.

The towpath is closed between Bridges 40 and 42. The canal is open for navigation but there may be restricted passage while engineers are on site.

An access track runs immediately above the 20 foot high retaining wall and several vehicles are believed to have been stranded by the collapse.

Photo: Roger Olver

Monday 3 March 2008

New Proposals for Standedge Tunnel Passage

British Waterways is proposing major changes to the way that boats pass through Standedge Tunnel!

The present system (which will continue in operation during 2008) is a complex operation, requiring an electric tug and passenger module pulling customers' boats through in a convoy on just two days a week. A safety vehicle in the adjacent disused railway tunnel shadows the convoy. BW staff are positioned on each boat, fending it off the tunnel sides. The operation is very labour intensive and costly to run.

Tests carried out during 2007 have shown that it is feasible for diesel engines to be operated routinely within the canal tunnel, enabling British Waterways to rethink how boats can be taken through the tunnel.

BW's proposal is that from 2009 customers' boats would pass through the tunnel under their own power, piloted by a trained qualified British Waterways staff member.

Boaters would be able to remain on their boats and pets will also be allowed to remain on board.

To make this feasible, BW proposed some modifcations to the tunnel, including removing some hazardous rock projections and highlighting or fendering others, improving safety signage, adding distance indicators and installing more flexible communications systems within the tunnel.

The proposals, if approved, will result in a faster passage time of around 1.5 hours and improved welfare arrangements for British Waterways staff.

BW will continue talking with partners Network Rail and the Emergency Services regarding the safety issues as the proposals have implications for their operations.

The guided visitor trips from Tunnel End on the glass roofed boat using electric tugs will continue but BW will be keeping the operation under constant review because of concerns about the future reliability of the electric tugs.

BW's Laurence Morgan said:
"We carried out a number of trials this year with a diesel tug operation to establish definitive information about potential problems with noxious fumes, test welfare and emergency responses as well as our control of the tunnel operations.

"The tests showed that gas emissions inside the tunnel were not a cause for concern and it may be possible to reduce the time taken to go through the tunnel down to one and a half hours.

"Moving on from this we are now considering a piloted operation of customers' own boats by British Waterways trained qualified staff. This will be far better than the very complex operation we have at present.

"For 2008 we will be keeping the operation as is but a project team will be running some further low level trials to ensure that the business case is robust.

"Although it is early days yet, we are very enthusiastic about the proposed changes as we feel this will offer our customers a vastly improved level of service and enable them to enjoy the trip through the highest, longest and deepest tunnel in the country far more than is possible at present."

The proposed changes should result in a more flexible operation for boaters, which could include passages on more than the present two days a week.

The piloting of boats by BW staff should reduce concerns that Network Rail may have than adventurous boaters might stop off and investigate the adits through into the active rail tunnel. It would also mean that in the event of an emergency, the qualified BW operative on board would be in radio contact with the tunnel office to ensure that emergency procedures are followed.

The 2008 season at Standedge starts from Saturday 15th March with the first through trips scheduled for Wednesday 19th and Friday 21st March. Boaters wanting to book passage should contact BW on 0113 281 6860.

Sunday 2 March 2008

New Towpath Guide for "Narrow"

A brand new Towpath Guide for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal has just been published by the Huddersfield Canal Society.

The new 90 page guide has over 500 full colour photographs and detailed maps covering the length of the Narrow, plus short sections of the Ashton and Huddersfield Broad Canals.

The illustrations below show a typical double spread, with a detailed map on the left and photos on the right. The photos show the view in both directs along the canal, with the location of each photo indicated on the map.

The guide has been written and compiled by Huddersfield Canal Society Administrator, Dr Bob Gough, who describes it as "a labour of love".

The guide costs just £4.99 + £1.50 for post and packing. It has been subsidised by the Society as part of its aim to promote the canal for the enjoyment of all.

Please see this page on the Canal Society's website for more details, including an order form.