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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 11:27 GMT
UK unveils massive canal revamp
Falkirk Wheel   British Waterways
The new face of the UK's canals: The world's first rotating boat lift, at Falkirk
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By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
line

A 500m revamp of Britain's ageing canal network has been unveiled.

The two-stage scheme by British Waterways will restore or build over 300 miles (480 kilometres) of canals and waterways.


Waterways are still catalysts and millions are benefiting in communities throughout the UK

George Greener
British Waterways
Many experts believe a new age of the canal is dawning in the UK with narrowboat holidays increasingly popular and more people choosing to live in houseboats.

It has been estimated there are between 20,000 and 25,000 boats on the British Waterways network and a similar number on the River Thames.

The first phase, to open some 220 miles (350 km) of canals and structures, will be completed in 2002 and includes the Anderton Boat Lift.

Digging again

The pioneering lift was built in 1875 to carry cargo-carrying boats between the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal 50 feet (15 metres) above. It will reopen on 26 March.

Anderton boat lift   British Waterways
The Anderton boat lift, a world first
The 115-ft- (35-m-) high Falkirk Wheel in Scotland is the world's first rotating boat lift and will open on 1 May.

A programme of nine further canal restoration and new waterway schemes is being announced by British Waterways in partnership with an independent charity, the Waterways Trust.

Covering 100 miles (160 km) of waterways, from London to the Lake District, the programme includes the first new canal to be designed for a century, the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway.

Renaissance

It will run for 20 miles (32 km), and is expected to create 500 new permanent jobs.

George Greener, chairman of British Waterways, said: "Canals were catalysts for economic growth two centuries ago, and with our partners we're restoring and opening them as fast as they were originally built.

People feeding swans in canal   British Waterways
Canals offer tranquillity
"Today, waterways are still catalysts and millions are benefiting in communities throughout the UK.

"Our current programme is set to deliver 100 million into local economies every year, from Scotland to the south of England, and to create 13,000 new permanent jobs."

Roger Hanbury, chief executive of the Waterways Trust, said: "Accessible to all, rich in heritage and important havens for wildlife, inland waterways provide a peaceful and tranquil environment for everyone."

The other current restorations are:

  • Chesterfield Canal

  • Huddersfield Narrow Canal. This involved reopening the Standedge Tunnel - the UK's longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel

  • Kennet and Avon Canal.

  • The Millennium Link reconnecting the Forth & Clyde and Union canals between Glasgow and Edinburgh and coast-to-coast across Scotland.

  • Rochdale Canal

    The nine new building and restoration projects are:

  • Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway

  • Bow Back Rivers, a network of tributaries of the River Lee navigation in east London

  • Cotswold Canals

  • Droitwich Canals

  • Foxton Inclined Plane, on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal

  • Liverpool Extension to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which will link the national network to the port's spectacular waterfront

  • Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal

  • Montgomery Canal, an internationally important habitat for floating water plantain

  • The northern reaches of the Lancaster Canal

    Sapperton Tunnel   British Waterways
    Sapperton tunnel will reopen
    Kate Griffin of British Waterways told BBC News Online: "Today is about re-inventing our canals. They're important for hundreds of thousands of people.

    "We already have 10 million visitors every year, and move 3.5 million tonnes of freight about the country. This is the canals' renaissance."

    Images courtesy of British Waterways

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Tom Heap
    "Canals are fashionable again"
    Ailsa Raeburn of British Waterways
    "We are announcing a series of eight projects"
    See also:

    30 Jan 02 | England
    Homes clear way for boats
    26 May 01 | Scotland
    Canal re-opens after 40 years
    21 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
    Canals making a comeback
    01 Oct 01 | England
    Canal project makes web splash
    25 Aug 01 | Scotland
    Waterway re-opens after 30 years
    07 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
    Canal age dawns anew in UK
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