M6 of the canal network reopens

2 May 2013

After repairs to embankment that was washed away by 24 million litres of water, the Canal & River Trust announced the re-opening of the Trent & Mersey canal at the site of the Dutton Breach.

A stretch of one of the country’s most popular and busiest canals is today (Thursday 2 May) being officially re-opened, after repairs to a section of 200 year-old embankment that collapsed in September 2012, leaving a crater equivalent to the size of 12 double decker buses.

Over 24 million litres of water and 12 thousand tonnes of stones have been needed to restore the Trent & Mersey Canal in Dutton, Cheshire, so that it can once again be enjoyed by boaters, walkers and nature lovers.

The Canal & River Trust – the charity that cares for canals in England and Wales – has invested nearly £2.1 million to complete the repairs, with a further £25,000 being contributed via donations from the public.

It is believed that the 18th century canal embankment became unstable as a result of prolonged rainfall during autumn of last year, which affected embankments around the country. The British Geological Society reported that landslips in the UK increased four to five fold between July and December 2012 compared to previous years.

The Dutton breach saw water flood into a nearby farmer’s field, leaving a 40 metre hole in the canal embankment which shut the waterway and its towpath for over seven months.

To guard against a repeat of the failure, the Trust has installed new drainage at the base of the embankment to help disperse excess ground water and a specialist flexible waterproof liner has been fitted to seal the canal.

Known as the “M6 motorway” of the canal network and built by the pioneering engineer James Brindley during the Industrial Revolution, the 235 year-old Trent & Mersey Canal is 93 ½ miles long and stretches from the Midlands to Cheshire where it forms part of the popular Cheshire Ring.

Vince Moran, operations director for the Canal & River Trust, explains: “We’re delighted to be re-opening this section of the Trent & Mersey Canal ahead of schedule and in time for the main boating season. Fortunately this kind of incident is rare, and we’ve gone to great lenghs to restore the embankment and protect it from this sort of failure in the future.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the support and kind donations from the public to help us with the repairs. The way that local enthusiasts, community groups, boaters and cyclists have rallied together to help us get the canal open again has been amazing. The incident has demonstrated the love that people have for canals, which are continuing to thrive two centuries after they were built.”

Nigel Huges, chief executive for YMCA birkenhead said: “This waterway is very special to a huge number of people from different and diverse backgrounds and the YMCA uses its unique rural peace and tranquillity to help people escape from the problems and chaos of everyday urban life – to that end it is an invaluable resource to us.  We applaud the work of the Canal & River Trust and the speedy work of the contractors in returning the canal to its former glory and are proud to support the fund-raising initiatives – helping put something back to safeguard this magnificent waterway for future generations to enjoy.”

For more information about the breach visit http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/features/update-on-the-trent-and-mersey-canal-breach

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