Lancaster Canal to make comeback 30 years after the M6 destroyed it

The most northerly man-made waterway in England is to make a spectacular comeback, more than 30 years after the pursuit of faster travel subjected it to an act of vandalism.

The picturesque northern section of the Lancaster Canal, renowned as a fast route of its day with 10mph express passenger services, was all but obliterated in 1968 when it proved an inconvenient obstacle for the new M6. Parts of the canal between Lancaster and Kendal were cemented in and the motorway was driven across it in three places.

But Britain's canals are undergoing a renaissance - they are being restored as fast as they were being built in 1800, at a rate of 200 miles per year.

In this climate of renewal,British Waterways has completed a feasibility study which recommends the Lancaster Canal's complete restoration, with the northern reaches probably being re-established by means of a tunnel beneath the motorway. Engineers, who are unlikely to begin work before 2004, will also have four trunk roads to cross but the study envisages the creation of around 2,000 jobs and one million visitors a year, generating £14m to fund the restoration.

The canal's almost parallel course to the M6, which it criss-crosses north of Burton-in-Kendal, is a problem. Two of the crossings offer embankments through which engineers can burrow but at a third, canal and road are at the same level.

Unpicking old vandalism has familiarised British Waterways with the neccesary technology to complete the work. In Scotland, the £78m reconnection of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals between Glasgow and Edinburgh has circumvented both the A80 and the M8 - the motorway that closed the Union Canal.

The restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is re-establishing a route beneath the bridges of the trans-Pennine A62 which were built so low that canal boats could no longer pass beneath them.

The canal, affectionatelyknown as "The Lanky", could be re-routed but a tunnel beneath the M6 appears to be the best option, with the possibility of using one of the canal's eight lock gates to lift boats back up again. A relatively simple boring technique would be used to drive out a tunnel. The Lancaster Canal Trust also hopes to build a canal across the "Ribble Link", which would connect the canal to the rest of Britain's inland waterway network.

Four of the 15 miles of canal which made up the northern reaches are now empty of water and some sections are hidden beneath agricultural land, creating the bizarre spectacle of an old canal bridge, bereft of any apparent canal, spanning a field near the village of Sedgwick.

British Waterways is treading more carefully than those who built the M6. "There'll be a biodiversity plan," said Rob Williams, the project manager. "We don't want to cause distress to bat roosts if we're restoring tunnels and though the hard shoulder may close we don't anticipate any major traffic interruptions."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test