The first stretch of canal to be built in Scotland in the 21st century will soon provide a link to the past and a vision of the future.
Scottish transport minister Keith Brown was on site in Grangemouth as the £43 million Helix project took another step towards completion.
A partnership between Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals, Central Scotland Forest Trust and the Big Lottery Fund, it is creating a canal tunnel under the M9 to return the Forth and Clyde Canal to the area it began in 250 years ago.
The work, which completes the final piece of the Millennium Link project, is part of a larger plan to bring a lagoon, wetland, forest, event space, over 27 kilometres of paths and, of course, two massive steel horse head sculptures to the area.
Mr Brown said: “The Helix project is part of the continuing renaissance of Scotland’s inland waterways and allows us to connect the rich history of our canals to a promising future.
“This will see our canals become bustling centres of activity for recreation, tourism and sport and catalysts for wider regeneration.”
A main part of the canal extension is the creation of a new sea lock at the River Carron and lift bridge on Kerse Road, which will allow a variety of larger vessels to enter the lowlands waterways for the first time.
Steve Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Canals, said: “This is a hugely important project – not only for Falkirk, but for Scotland as a whole.
“The canal link will open up the coast to coast sailing route to more boats, strengthening Scotland’s marine tourism.” As well as creating a new visitor destination and marine hub in the lowland canal network, the Helix will also significantly boost Scotland’s cycle network.
New towpaths and other pathways will create safe connections for over a dozen communities in the Falkirk area and a green tourist route which connects with attractions like The Falkirk Wheel.
Falkirk Council’s director of development services Rhona Geisler was on site with Mr Brown and Mr Dunlop to see the progress of the development, which is scheduled to be completed later in the year.
She said: “The Helix will offer something for everyone and will prove to be one of Scotland’s most exciting and innovative visitor attractions.
“It is a massive transform_ation of derelict land into a vibrant and attractive site.”