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Navigation resumes on Scotland’s canal network after historic winter works which included replacing lock gates on the Caledonian Canal which runs from Inverness in the east to Corpach in the west

By Ian Duncan

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The Caledonian Canal.
The Caledonian Canal.

Scottish Canals has reopened the canal network across the country following one of the largest winter work programmes of recent years – including work on the Caledonian Canal which stretches from Inverness in the east to Corpach in the west.

The work saw more than £16.5 million spent on improvement works on the nation's canal infrastructure and operational equipment.

Scotland’s canal network, which welcomes almost 22 million visitors per year, has reopened to the boating community after a winter of major improvement works seeing the most significant investment in 20 years.

Works included major investment from replacing lock gates on the Caledonian and Crinan Canals to restoring the Union Canal following a breach in August and renewing the coating on the world’s only rotating boat lift, The Falkirk Wheel.

The annual winter improvement works are carried out in accordance with Scottish Canals’ Asset Management Strategy to maximise the benefit provided by the canals.

The works, which are carried out in the winter, ensure impacts to boating movements are minimised while allowing the public body to maximise the value derived from the investment in creating opportunities for tourism and commercial activities to flourish.

Catherine Topley, the chief executive of Scottish Canals, said: “Our mission at Scottish Canals is to deliver world class waterways and the completion of winter works across our network ensures that our canals remain open, vibrant and able to welcome 22 million visits each year.

“Our improvement works ensure that Scotland’s canal network is not only fit for purpose but also enables future investment in tourism and businesses across the country safeguarding local economies.”

On the Caledonian Canal a series of major improvements have now concluded. Lock gates at Gairlochy have taken centre stage on the canal, the 30-year-old structures which hold back Loch Lochy, were reaching the end of their life. The £2 million project secures the ability to hold back 46 million cubic metres of water and improves operational reliability.

In addition, part of the £1 million from the Scottish Government for dredging has been used to clear the canal ensuring that the 1200 boats transiting through the canal per year can do so with ease.

The completion of winter works on the Caledonian Canal will benefit the thriving tourism market for Great Glen chasers and holiday makers in the Highlands over the coming years protecting the local economies from Inverness to Fort William.

Following the completion of winter works on all four of Scotland’s navigable canals the Caledonian, Crinan, Forth and Clyde and Union Canals are now open to navigation. Limited navigation will take place on the Forth and Clyde Canal until May 28 when sea to sea navigation will resume.

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