As one breach opens…

July 2018 - Canal & River Trust has some good news for northern boaters with the announcement that the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Melling should be reopened by mid August, clearing the route into Liverpool after nearly two months of closure, Peter Underwood reports.

After weeks of preparation, work has begun to repair a collapsed culvert beneath the Leeds & Liverpool which, drained a long section of the canal in the middle of June.

C&RT has used 1,300 tonnes of stone to install water-tight dams either side of the drained section of canal giving access to the canal bed and the collapsed culvert beneath it.

Work has now begun to install a new culvert, with the Trust estimating a cost around £0.5m. It says: “The aim is to have the stretch of canal back open by mid- August.”

The good news comes as the Trust is appearing on national television to explain why the Leeds and Liverpool north of Wigan is inaccessible from the south, after it was forced to close all the locks between Wigan and Gargrave because of drought.

Interim Regional Director for the North West, Daniel Greenhalgh, appeared three times in one morning on BBC Breakfast attempting to emphasise that the remainder of the Leeds and Liverpool beyond Gargrave was open and that “95% of the canal system was still open,”

The interviewer appeared unaware that several other northern canals have been closed or restricted because of drought.

News of the reopening of the much larger scale breach site – at Middlewich – is less good, with the initial estimate of Christmas, at the earliest still in place.

The breach in mid- March is estimated to cost £3m and it has taken from then till mid June to complete the preparatory works. Project Manager Andy Johnson explained: “Our emergency response started the day after the breach happened to make the site safe by removing debris blocking the River Wheelock, installing dams either side of the breach, removing dangerous trees and rescuing stranded boats. Since then a temporary access road and construction site compound have been established next to the breach and an access route along the canal bed constructed.”

Work on the breach itself started in mid June and, although updates are not being published on a regular basis, it seems the Christmas reopening is still the earliest.

Photos: (1st) The breach on the Middlewich Arm - six times more expensive to repair, (2nd) The broken culvert under the Leeds and Liverpool, (3rd) Clearing rubbish from the drained Leeds and Liverpool.

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