Thames lock safety reprieve
THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY has scrapped plans to remove fire extinguishers and portable rescue ladders from its locks on the Thames, following protests from the National Association of Boat Owners.
The Agency had earlier defended its decision, saying that lock-keepers were not trained to use the fire extinguishers, and that having consulted with “experts in water safety and rescue”, it had been advised that it was “better and safer to have equipment to assist a casualty while access is made to the lock steps” than to use the portable ladders.
However, at the Thames Navigation User Forums meeting in January EA Waterways Manager Andrew Graham said that, following an exercise to investigate lock issues, it had decided to replace the ladders with lighter ones and make “little change” to its fire extinguisher practice. of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Group plus representatives of the local MP and Welsh Government member, and has published a draft Re-opening Plan.
The Plan concentrates on the seven-mile ‘missing link’ between the restored lengths in England and Wales, which, if re-opened, would create a 26-mile continuous navigable route from the Llangollen at Frankton through Welshpool to Refail. The work needed to reopen it is split into five stages, with the costs estimated: Morton to Llanymynech £5m Llanymynech to Wern £1.1m Wern to Four Crosses £3.3m Four Crosses to Arddleen £3.75m Arddleen main road crossing £1.6m Adding in other works including bank protection, dredging, land acquisition, nature reserves, studies and towpath work brings it to a total of £30m – but it is believed more use of volunteers could significantly cut this.
Following the consultation, it is planned to take the agreed plan forward so that a tourism case, business plan and feasibility studies can be completed and put forward to the Welsh and Westminster governments and other potential funders – with a ten-year target for opening.
Meanwhile, at the far end of the canal, there has been renewed interest in extending restoration through from Refail to Newtown, with Newtown’s Town Council affirming its support and agreeing to work with other groups.