Immediate at 1 Feb2018
Many thanks for the constructive discussion at LCVG in regard to the issues identified with the operation of Twechar and Bonnybridge lift bridges. As discussed, with the technical problems that we have identified, we have no option but to temporarily close these bridges until funding can be identified to facilitate either comprehensive repairs or, preferably, a long-term upgrade to their operating mechanism.
As always, it was helpful to consult with LCVG as a group that engages all canal societies, charities and the Lowland Canal Association representing our leisure boaters. From the two questions I asked, I was grateful to receive very clear answers from the group. Firstly, LCVG would like us to prioritise our works to ensure that Twechar bridge is first priority for reopening, with Bonnybridge second priority.
Secondly, in regard to mitigation to boaters while we sought funding to reopen the bridges, the group clearly understood that every pound waived from our income could potentially extend the timescale for achieving the necessary repairs to the bridges. However, the group felt that some degree of reduction in the craft licence should be offered to boaters more directly affected in the area between Bonnybridge and Twechar. I have discussed with the Scottish Canals executive team and can confirm that the licence fee for boaters within this area will be reduced to £1 per month for the period that these bridges are closed and this will be with effect from 1st February 2018. Should we achieve a fix on one of the bridges, the reduction would be 50% of the licence fee.
In regard to transits, this unfortunately means we will need to temporarily close the Forth & Clyde Canal to through traffic until funding to undertake these works can be identified. As discussed, we see this as a temporary closure and we will work hard with the Scottish Government and partners to identify the necessary investment to get these bridges operation as soon as possible.
The Millennium Link has been a great success, delivered through partnership working between public, private and third sectors. The economic monitoring continues to show how Lowland Canals significantly exceeds the original economic regeneration targets of the canal corridor, between 2010-2015 alone we have seen £510.6 million of investment, 3221 homes built supporting more than 2000 jobs and nearly 4000 construction jobs. The number of visitations to the towpath continues to grow, encouraging active travel and delivering health benefits and numerous successful visitor destinations are prospering on the banks. The vibrancy of the waterspace is important to this growth, however we have not yet achieved the hoped-for levels of activity.
Operation and maintenance of Scotland’s canals remains revenue heavy and I welcomed the discussion in regard to how important volunteering will be to the future of the Lowland Canals and the interest in different operating models. To sustain the network across Scotland in its present condition and operability, the asset model clearly shows we need between £6 million to £9 million per annum of additional funding. As discussed, I would appreciate your thoughts on how we identify this long-term funding.
I’m aware that a number of boaters are keen to move their boats in the short term as they are presently away from their home mooring. We are presently looking at mitigation (cranes/ jacks etc.) that can be put in place to allow these bridges to be operated safely for a single day/lift to allow boats that want to return to their home moorings through. We will keep you all fully informed whether this can be safely delivered and the date, times and booking process for this day.
Many thanks for your help and any issues please get in contact.
Director of Infrastructure
The LCVG meeting referred to was with the Lowland Canals Volunteer Group, an open body consisting of individuals and interested organisations who actively and physically support the operation and maintenance of the Scottish Lowland canal system. Any reader who is interested should make personal contact with:- John.McGowan@scottishcanals.co.uk; or Carol.Bell2@scottishcanals.co.uk; or the Scottish Waterways Trust 01324 677809.