The Falkirk Wheel has brought huge benefits to the community.
Ten years after it was opened by HM The Queen, the area continues to reap the rewards with health, wealth and tourism all receiving a boost.
This week those involved in developing and building the iconic structure, welcomed The Princess Royal to Falkirk to launch the celebrations of ‘a decade of success’ for the world’s only rotating boatlift.
Her visit came in the week that Scottish Canals, the public corporation which has taken over from British Waterways in Scotland, was inaugurated.
Chairman Dr Jon Hargreaves said: “The Falkirk Wheel has made a great contribution to the image of Scotland and is now an intrinsic part of the Lowland canals and a perfect symbol of their renaissance and the broad economic, social and environmental public value they together deliver.”
The proposal to reopen the Forth & Clyde and Union Canal first became a real possibility in the early 1990s but the question mark was how to join the two to create the Millennium Link – a canal network connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow, while regenerating the communities along the waterways.
Dr Hargreaves added: “When planning the Millennium Link, we wanted an extraordinary design which could become an icon affirming that the 18th century canals are back and have an important role to play in he 21st century.
“We couldn’t have expected what a great success the world’s only rotating boatlift would become as a functioning part of the canals, a much-loved community amenity and a leading visitor attraction.”
Over 4.4 million people have visited The Falkirk Wheel since it opened with 1.3 million enjoying a boat trip. Its annual visitor numbers of over 400,000 make it one of Scotland’s leading visitor attractions.
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, who has strong links with the area, said: “The Falkirk Wheel is very close to my heart. I was chairman of Forth Valley Enterprise when we recognised the tourism potential of the canal and the need to win Millennium funding to create a truly spectacular new visitor attraction.
“The Falkirk Wheel has become an icon. It is one of Scotland’s success stories and, in the winning years, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Scottish tourism.
“I am delighted to congratulate The Falkirk Wheel on its 10th anniversary. I know people from all over the world will be flocking to it for many years, indeed generations to come.”
Recognition of The Wheel as a symbol of modern engineering and design has led to it picking up many accolades, the latest during the Royal visit. Professor Isobel Pollock, president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers handed over one of its coveted Heritage Awards.
Since 2000, the reopened Lowlands canals have stimulated an estimated £400 million in private investment, while around £7 million has been saved by local health services thanks to people being encouraged to use the towpath for fitness, leisure and commuting to work.
Projects currently under way to develop the canals further include revitalising the Falkirk to Grangemouth corridor with the £43 million Helix Project and Tamfourhill regeneration an integral part.