Plan to stop boats using the Wheel

Published: Monday, 20 March 2017

COMPLETELY disregarding the fact that the Falkirk Wheel was constructed to transport boats between the  Forth & Clyde and Union canals, a plan is afoot to stop all such use.

Named the Rotate Project, the Scottish Canals are intent upon raising more revenue from the Wheel by planning to actually remove one of the pods that carry the boats between the two levels and replacing it with a permanent walk-in pontoon for passengers, that would totally prevent in being used for boats.


But there is worse, for the remaining pod would be used solely for the Wheel's own passenger boat, that would prevent any—or very little—use by either the many hire boats or private boats that use the Wheel for what it was constructed for, and permanently throwing the two canals back into the 'dark ages' with no connection whatsoever.

Realising the uproar at such a move, Scottish Canals have offered to make the Wheel available to hire companies, but have done so at such a cost it is impossible for them to meet the payment demanded, so Scottish Canals have thus decimated the 'opposition' to its scheme.

Bring in more revenue

It is of course all about the Wheel bringing in more revenue by giving those people who don't relish the boat trip but would take a walk-on, walk-off ride the opportunity for such a trip.

Needless to say the boat hire companies are devastated by the plan that was suddenly dropped on them. Basically starting in 2018, one pod of the wheel would be permanently occupied by a pontoon that visitors would walk on to. The trip boats would continue to use the other pod leaving very little capacity for anyone else, making it virtually impossible for hire boat companies to arrange.

Richard Davies tells us it has been providing narrowboat holidays on the Lowland Canals since 2003, following the re-opening of the canals and the development of the Falkirk Wheel. The present owners, Re-Union Canal Boats Ltd and Tim Ford took over the business in April 2009.

Beyond its resources

Richard explains that recent negotiation of fees between Scottish Canals and Capercaillie Cruisers Ltd (CCL) has led the CCL Board to re-evaluate the company's long-term sustainability, as the scale of the difference between current and proposed future charges (for use of the Wheel) meant that further negotiation could not lead to a satisfactory outcome with the proposed changes to leasing arrangements opening up potential liabilities in the future well beyond CCL's resources.

Scottish Canals had placed such restrictions on the boat numbers at the Falkirk Wheel that has removed any confidence about growth and long-term sustainability of the company that the relationship between CCL and Scottish Canals has effectively broken down.

In view of this, the CCL Board asked the Re-Union Canal Boats Ltd Board, as the majority shareholder and as a Scottish charity, to consider these revised terms and issues as a matter of urgency.

To cease trading

The conclusion of both Boards is the same, namely that CCL does not have a long-term trading future. The Boards have therefore reluctantly and sadly taken the decision to cease trading at the end of the 2017 cruising season. But CCL will honour its commitments to its holiday customers over the forthcoming season, and would like to thank its staff, partners and supporters for their efforts over the last eight years.

So the greed of Scottish Canals has claimed its first victim. The Falkirk Wheel was applauded as connecting two Scottish Canals together and creating business and jobs for hire companies to provide their customers with the experience of travelling on boats on the Wheel between the two canals, as it did for the myriad of private boats, but the plan now it to take away its original intention and to make it little more than a glorified fairground ride for paying customers.