Cash lifeline to re-open broken canal bridges

Part of the Forth & Clyde Canal is to re-open to through traffic after Nicola Sturgeon announced extra £1.6 million to fix two broken lift bridges today.
Twechar bridge has been out of action since January. Picture: Inland Waterways AssociationTwechar bridge has been out of action since January. Picture: Inland Waterways Association
Twechar bridge has been out of action since January. Picture: Inland Waterways Association

The extra cash revealed by the First Minister for Scottish Canals follows the closures at Twechar and Bonnybridge in January.

However, two other bridges remain out of action in Glasgow, one at Knightswood and the other on a branch of the canal towards the city centre.

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It has meant boaters are unable to traverse the canal between Grangemouth on the Forth and Bowling on the Clyde

The additional funding will also enable further repairs to Ardrishaig Pier at the eastern end of the Crinan Canal in Argyll.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency, which is Scottish Canals' main funder, said: “An additional £1.625m of capital grant in aid to has been announced to enable Scottish Canals to repair and improve the Bonnybridge and Twechar bridges on the Forth and Clyde and to carry out further repair work at Ardrishaig Pier.

“There have ongoing discussions with Scottish Canals about their asset management plan in order to understand the scale of the financial challenges ahead.

"We are in regular contact with Scottish Canals to discuss the opportunities and the challenges around maintaining these historic assets.

“Scottish Canals have been allocated £11.6m in the budget for 2018-19 with an increase of £0.5m (16 per cent) in the capital allocation to £3.5m.

The spokesperson said Scottish Canals generated some 55 per cent of its income from commercial activities.

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Scottish Canals interim chief executive Catherine Topley said: “We are delighted with the news.

"We have been in dialogue with the Scottish Government for a number of months about needing additional investment to fix these assets.

"This injection of money will enable a long-term repair that ensures the bridges and the pier fully operational once again.

“We are passionate about maintaining a moving canvas on the Lowland canals as this is important to their renaissance, which has delivered significant investment, new jobs, tourism spend as well as health and environmental benefits since they were reopened in 2002.

“However, we are managing a complex portfolio of 250-year-old heritage assets which hold a large percentage of Scotland’s water and are under increasing pressure from climate change.

"With a repairs backlog in excess of £70 million, we continue to work with ministers to find a way of addressing this challenge.”