Michael Matheson MSP today (Friday, March 27) joined Network Rail and Scottish Canals to re-open the Forth and Clyde Canal at The Falkirk Wheel following a six-month closure.
The canal was closed and drained in October 2014 to allow for the demolition and replacement of the Carmuirs twin railway tunnels beneath the waterway.
The construction of the aqueduct and reinstatement of the canal – delivered as part of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) – was completed ahead of the busy Easter programme on the waterway.
A Scottish Government-funded, £742m investment in Scotland’s railway, EGIP is delivering a rolling programme of electrification across the central belt – reducing journey times and boosting capacity on routes including the Edinburgh-Glasgow Queen Street (via Falkirk High) line.
The new aqueduct is the 51st structure completed in a programme of 61 bridge works being delivered across the central belt to create extra space beneath bridges and tunnels to allow electric overhead power lines to be erected on key routes.
Mr Matheson, MSP for Falkirk West, said: “The completion of the aqueduct at Carmuirs and the re-opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal marks yet another step in the transformation of central Scotland’s railway.
“It is important for the local economy that the work has been completed ahead of Scottish Canal’s busy Easter programme of activities and as we get ready to enter increased numbers of visitors to the Falkirk Wheel and with the minimum of disruption to the local community.”
Rodger Querns, Network Rail Programme Director for EGIP, added: “While we are used to working with councils to close roads for bridge works, closing and draining a canal is novel and unique and we are grateful to Scottish Canals for their cooperation throughout this project.
“Carmuirs Tunnel presented an unusual engineering challenge and when you see the aqueduct and the re-instated canal, it is clear that our project team and contractors, BAM, fully met this challenge.”
Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said: “This is a 21st century asset that will ensure the future of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the railway – two important transport networks – for many years to come. It’s great to be here today and see what partnership working can deliver.”
Ahead of the six-month-long reconstruction programme, Network Rail diverted the canal towpath and installed a temporary footbridge across the railway to maintain access for the many runners, walkers and cyclists in the area and to ensure people could continue to visit The Falkirk Wheel during the work.
The canal was then drained with demolition of the twin tunnels and initial stages of reconstruction of the new single tunnel taking place over extended railway closures at both Christmas and New Year. There then followed an intensive period of work to complete the railway tunnel and construct the aqueduct to meet the end of March completion date agreed with Scottish Canals in advance of work beginning.