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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Vandals delay canal wheel opening
The Falkirk Wheel
The wheel was damaged when sluice gates were opened
The public opening of one of Scotland's millennium projects is to be postponed because of vandalism.

But staff at the Falkirk Wheel vowed to do their best to have the giant tourist attraction ready in time for a visit by the Queen next month.

The opening of the wheel, the world's first rotating boatlift, was due to take place on Wednesday but bosses decided to delay it when they realised the damage could not be repaired on time.

British Waterways Scotland said the damage caused in last week's vandalism meant key components in the 115ft wheel would have to be repaired or replaced.

Canal construction
The project has cost 84.5m

However, a thorough examination of the site, which will allow staff to determine when the damage can be repaired, cannot take place until the deluged equipment has dried out.

A sluice gate mechanism was tampered with in the early hours of 18 April, releasing water from the canal onto wheel and its aqueduct.

The basin below the wheel, near Tamfourhill, was flooded and sensitive hydraulic and electrical equipment was immersed.

The Queen's visit on 24 May, as part of her Golden Jubilee tour, will still go ahead but staff at the water agency said they wanted the wheel working in time for the royal visitor.

A spokeswoman said: "We will do everything we can to get it running by then.

"We will have a better idea next week of the work that will be done.

The Queen
The Queen is to visit at the end of May

"Everybody would like to see it opening for the Queen's visit but we're not quite sure about how feasible this will be yet."

Jim Stirling, director for British Waterways in Scotland, said he was upset by the news.

He said: "This is extremely disappointing news, but the support from the local Falkirk and wider Scotland community - and all British Waterways' partners on the Millennium Link - has been tremendous."

News of the delay came as police investigating the damage made a fresh appeal for information.

Officers at Central Scotland Police said they were keen to speak to an individual who contacted them last Thursday about the incident.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | Scotland
Millennium attraction damaged
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
Canal wheel nears completion
26 May 01 | Scotland
Canal re-opens after 40 years
18 Aug 00 | Scotland
Canal cleared of mercury
13 Sep 99 | Scotland
Prescott makes canal splash
21 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Canals making a comeback
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