Liverpool access easier – but why not year long?

April 2018 - Boaters wanting to use the Liverpool Link will no longer have to depend on seasonal staff after Canal & River Trust moved to a self-service approach on Monday this week – but there is still no sign of year-round access along the multi-million pound link, despite the changes, as Peter Underwood reports.

C&RT describes the changes as 'a suite of improvements to deliver a full self-service experience for customers travelling towards Liverpool on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and for those using the Liverpool Canal Link'. Despite the claims it seems the Link along the docks is only going to be open six days a week and around seven months of the year.

The 'suite of improvements' mean C&RT has has made two swing bridges boater operated between fixed times and made the Stanley Locks and locks on the link usable by boaters. (I have to declare an interest as we have been moored in Liverpool Docks for almost a year and unable to use the link for nearly half that time.)

The Trust also claims changes to its web booking system 'make it easier than ever before to access Liverpool and the historic Liverpool South Docks'. That means numbers coming across the link using the Pierhead tunnels and locks will still be controlled by the number of berths available for booking in Salthouse docks, but the terminus of the Leeds and Liverpool canal by the top of Stanley Locks will be accessible to all.

The Trust has installed road barriers and an electronic pedestal to allow self-user operation at Bridge 9 (Handcock’s Swing Bridge) - but use of the bridge will be restricted during peak traffic times and will be open for user operation from 9:30am to 2:00pm and 6pm to 7:30am daily.

Installation of new landing stages at Bridge 6 (Netherton Swing Bridge) will enable user operation and C&RT has cleared vegetation, install new fencing, pathways and signage across the site.

It says improvements to the Stanley Locks and paddles will facilitate user operation, although roving lock keepers will be 'available for guidance'.

Changes to the passage times on the Link will allow unlimited boat movements during allocated windows (8:00 am to 9:30 am travelling out of Liverpool and 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm travelling into the docks – if you have used the web booking system to book your own pontoon mooring in Salthouse Dock.

Speaking to the people responsible for booking the link at C&RT's Wigan office it is clear that they don't think that the link will be operational seven days a week. It is currently only open six days and closed on a Tuesday. Nor do they believe the new system will mean year round operation and the link is likely to remain inexplicably closed for five months of the year.

The Floater has asked both the acting North West Waterways boss and the regional press office for why this is the case, but neither has managed to reply.

Photos: (1st) Approaching Pierhead on the link, (2nd) The cut and cover tunnels created between the iconic Tnree Graces and the waterfront to enable boats to reach Salthouse dock, (3rd) A boat passing through Pierhead on the link, (4th) Stanley Lock Flight - drops boats down to the docks and the Liverpool Link.

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