Lack of inspections and checks cause of Aire & Calder breach

Published: Wednesday, 23 December 2020

BENEATH the Aire & Calder Navigation, right next to where that hole has appeared near New Bridge is a largish culvert, writes Tony Dunkley.

It carries a land drain for the area that's been flooded, and the land drain runs to a pumping station on the Dutch River (the river Don) about a hundred yards away. There have been leaks at this spot in times past, which is why the heavy duty Larssen piling that can be seen in the photographs was driven next to and inside of where the original waterway walls were. If the culvert has collapsed, partially collapsed, or is damaged in any way, then this could turn into a long and expensive job to fix.

Barges passing close to the piling

Not an immediately obvious connection, but years of mud and silt build up—going back to the latter days of BW—on the inside of the bend just on the Knottingley side of the breach always used to force loaded Westbound 180'(+) long 500 and 600 ton barges to take a very wide course round there with the stern passing very close to the pilingsometimes only inches awayand the powerful backwash from the propellers blasting away at the canal bed right where the hole has now appeared.

The timing of the breach may or may not be significant, but the minor increase in barge traffic over the last few weeks could well have caused some final bit of extra canal bed erosion adjacent to the piling where the hole has appeared sufficient to lead to the massive leakage that began last Sunday.

Inattention to routine maintenance

If that is so then the root cause of this breach goes back to BW's inattention to routine maintenance spot dredging during their latter years, followed by CaRT's eight and a half years of total inattention to anything, . . and in particular, as in every recent instance of serious leakage or collapse, regular inspections and checks by competent experienced lengthsmen who can recognize the signs of imminent structural failures BEFORE they happen.