Bankside boat smash scuppers East Forth and Clyde Canal trips

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The Forth and Clyde Canal’s east section could be closed to boats “for a number of months” after an accident wrecked a lock gate at Bankside.

The incident is the latest example of the sort of random problem Scottish Canals argues poses major difficulties in its attempts to keep the trouble-ridden canals system operational.

The closure follows an accident last weekend when a hire boat collided with Lock 6 at Bankside, damaging both the lock gate and walkway.

Operations staff made the site safe by securely chaining the gate. closing off the walkway, and removing the boat concerned.

A spokesperson for Scottish Canals said: “Forth & Clyde East is now closed for the foreseeable future until lock repairs and a lock gate replacement can be carried out.

“This may be number of months and will depend on the availability of funding.

“We will keep you informed of any developments”.

The new setback for long-held aspirations to enable permanent boat access across the central belt’s canals system comes amid renewed calls from Ronnie Rusack, chairman of pressure group Keep Canals Alive!, for Scottish Canals to invest more cash in canal infrastructure.

It also follows a hefty grant from the Scottish Government designed to shore up funding which Scottish Canals has argued is insufficient to keep crumbling Victorian canal fixtures in full working order at all times.

Answering earlier criticism, Scottish Canals issued a strategy document which sought to explain how it aims to use resources to prioritise work on the sprawling web of assets under its control.

However with canal access to boats seemingly continually hostage to breakdowns and accidents Scottish Canals has argued it cannot guarantee to keep the system fully functional while also maintaining its key priority of public safety.

With an accrued baggage of a claimed £70million worth of backlogged repairs - even before new liabilities are taken into account - it maintains it has to weigh carefully how and when to deploy its cash.

However canals writer Jonathan Mosse, whose narrowboat is berthed on the canal stretch between Bowling and Falkirk, last month told the BBC the network needs a “stitch in time” solution.

Calling for a heavier commitment to maintenance and investment he said: “We need that stitch in time now, we needed it yesterday, we needed it the day before”.