Victor reckons swing bridges need sorting

Published: Sunday, 08 May 2022

SOMETHING really must be done about the ever failing swing bridges on the system.

It was April, hardly a busy time on the waterways, yet five swing bridges failed.

It's not as though the system is crowded with them either, as there are only two main canals with any number of such bridges—the Leeds & Liverpool and the Kennet & Avon, with just a sprinkling on a couple of other waterways, leaving the huge majority with none.

During April two failed on the Kennet & Avon—Cranwell's and Padworth. On the Leeds & Liverpool  there were threeMicklethwaite, Coxhead and Niffany.  Then Winkwell on the Grand Union .

Keeping up the trend, on Friday Keith Gudgin reported that Padworth Swing Bridgeanother on the Kennet & Avon—was out of action.

CoxheadLLAs so many boaters are aware, these are not occasional events, but occurring all too often, to the distress of many boaters held up by the enforced stoppages.

Many of these swing bridges have failed time and time again, with it getting into the realms of fantasy with two—Coxhead and Winkwellactually vying with each other for the number of times they break down, with Coxhead (pictured) at one time being so unreliable that passage was by appointment only, brought about by the continuous failure of its automated control system.

But Winkwell, one of the few on the Grand Union, took the biscuit, with staff at the local pub telling boater John Wallace it had failed three times in two hours in October with a total of nine failures in the season!  At one instance last year it was closed for two weeks whilst contractors scrambled about for spares.

The excuses/reasons

So we come to the excuses/reasons for all these failures.

'Structure Failure' 'Operating Fault' or 'Mechanical Failure' are the three mostly used alternating excuses/reasons given for a swing bridge not working.

This is usually followed by the notice that the trust's engineersread 'contractors'are on the way to the site to investigate.

Then it really is in the lap of the Gods!

It's time

I told in my heading that something must be done about these ever failing swing bridges.

They are really causing havoc for boaters and hire companies held up by their constant repeating failures.  When one such swing bridge is out of action nine times in one season and others take around two weeks to repair they really are causing distress for people attempting to enjoy our canals.

So the future should see one of those major 83 projects by the trust, as mentioned below, should surely include a thorough investigation by someone who understands swing bridges—and certainly not the present contractorsand then the ever failing parts completely replaced so that the bridges will last for years without the constant failures that Canal & River Trust seems to believe is acceptable.

Fantastic stuff

Fantastic stuff indeed from Damian, writing in the trust's propaganda sheet, he telling of the vast amount of money spent on so many major projects—£50 millions on 83 major projects in the last year.

Alas we are not told what these 'major' projects were.  And I wonder—were all those cancelled winter works included in that list?

But the best in that dear Damian tells of a three years investment plan!  Three years? I don't think so, it can't get one year right!


Any road up—as we say up here—we are off later today on our usual Spring cruise, and I may add, all of us with some trepidation after knowing of 29 stoppages in the past month. And one of those on our route too. But like everyone who takes to the canals these days, we can but hope.

So no updates until the 25th, though providing I get the laptop to work I'll keep you informed...

Victor Swift