Canal drained after someone left lock open causing £3,000,000 in damage

A canal user caused £3 million worth of damage and chaos after leaving lock gates open. It sent thousands of gallons of water gushing along a canal with such force it washed away the banks. Trees were torn from their roots, hundreds of fish died and boats were lifted from their moorings by the mini tsunami.

The ‘human error’ by an unknown Shropshire Union Canal user – probably on a boat or barge – will cost £3 million to repair

It happened in March but the huge bill has only just been revealed after an investigation by the Canal and River Trust.

A 70 metre stretch of the waterway in Middlewich, Cheshire, was washed away after the canal overflowed, leaving a 12m deep hole. The trust’s probe has revealed that gates on the locks, which allow water into the canal, had been left open by a forgetful member of the public.

They should have been closed after boats passed through the locks.

It caused the canal to overflow, resulting in a section of the 200-year-old embankment being washed away.

The affected stretch had to be closed, meaning boats could not travel along that stretch of the canal.

Contractors have been toiling since March to install dams either side of the breach, removing dangerous trees and rescuing stranded boats. About 15 boats were stranded and more than 10,000 fish were rescued but many more died when they were washed on to dry land. A specialist low loader with a crane had to be hired to hoist the marooned boats back into the water.

Andy Johnson, the trust’s senior project manager, said a ‘huge amount’ has been needed to fix the damage. ‘A great deal of work has been completed to get to the point where we can actually start to repair this huge hole.

‘Behind the scenes, specialists have been ensuring the ecology, heritage and environment around the breach is safeguarded and engineers have been working on the complex design plan required to repair the canal.’ The trust hopes the canal, which runs through Whitchurch and Ellesmere, will re-open to boats by Christmas. Mr Johnson added: ‘I’d like to thank everyone over the last few months for their support and kind donations to help us with the repairs. ‘This has really demonstrated the love that people have for the canal which plays an important part in people’s everyday life.’


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