FOLLOWING a wave of protests that the safety fence planned for Canal Street in Manchester will block access to Lock 86, British Waterways has announced a package of safety measures, Martin Clark of Pennine Waterways writes.
Boaters were concerned that the new fence would make the use of Lock 86 on the Rochdale Canal more hazardous if foot access to the lock is stopped. Some had expressed concern that BW was not looking after the interests of boaters in this case. BW has now responded to the criticisms by saying that there was always an intention to make improvements to Lock 86 to make it safer to operate when the only access is by boat.
The planned additional safety measures are:
- The offside landing above the lock to be extended by adding a new landing stage (possibly floating)
- the existing landing stage below the lock (under the bridge) to be re-surfaced to improve safety
- bespoke steps to be added to the steep cobbled slope between the lock side and the lower landing stage.
These measures will 'design out' the need for boaters to climb over the wall and use the traditional steps, which BW now considers unsafe.
Alan Platt's photograph of the landing stage below Lock 86 well illustrates the conditions that boaters along the Rochdale Nine have to tolerate.
BW hopes to have the new features in place before the Mardi Gras festival in late August, which has caused access problems in the past.
However, if the new fence is erected before the lock upgrades are completed, then the access gate to the steps will be left open until the new measures are in place. Debbie Lumb, General Manager of BW's North West Waterways, commented:
"It is true that this is not explained very well in the planning documents and in hindsight could have been added. However, please understand that we have always been the voice of our customers—both in boating circles and in horseboating—throughout this process. We are simply guilty of not telling everyone everything we were doing outside of this planning application!"
What about Lock 87?
Martin goes on to highlight the need for a new landing above Lock 87, pointing out that like Lock 86 it only has a short area where boat crews can step off, and there are the same concerns over the difficulty of getting off the bow of certain types of boats.
At the moment crew members are able to walk down from Lock 86 to prepare the lock but, with the fence in place and the traditional steps out of use, all crew members would in future be aboard their boats, hence the need for an extended landing at Lock 87, but Debbie Lumb admitted that a new landing at Lock 87 was not planned at the moment. but will look into whether there may be cost savings in doing the works at the same time as Lock 86. However, BW's limited budgets may mean that this needs to wait.