THE MAJOR stoppage that was threatening to keep the Bridgewater Canal’s Leigh Branch shut until June has been shortened by three weeks – but the canals owners Peel Holdings say they are unable to guarantee it will open on time.
Without this vital link in the route from the Midlands to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, boats are unable to reach the Ribble Link, Lancaster Canal or Liverpool Link without either a long detour via Yorkshire (with boat length restrictions) or an adventurous crossing of the Mersey estuary. The closure (to enable Vicars Hall Bridge to be rebuilt in connection with a housing development by Peel) was delayed twice for reasons outside Peel’s control, so that instead of coinciding with winter canal works it ran through from 13 February to 16 June. This led to pressure from the local branch of the Inland Waterways Association and concerns of boaters missing booked passages through the Ribble Link and Liverpool Link.
Peel has now brought the opening date forward to 24 May – but admits it “cannot guarantee completion on the published date”.