Union Canal refilled after devastating breach sparked huge disruption

The Union Canal near Polmont has been refilled with water - seven months after a major breach.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 4:30 pm

The storms of August 2020 saw a section of the canal burst its banks near Muiravonside, causing a 30 metre wide breach as part of the towpath was washed away.

The incident had a huge impact on the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway line, and resulted in train services being suspended for a number of weeks.

Within a matter of hours, Scottish Canals, along with partners, which included Forth Rivers Trust led an emergency response to stop the flow of water and rescue over 11,000 displaced fish.

The breach at Muiravonside last August

With £6.25 million of funding from the Scottish Government, work began to repair the damage.

The removal of temporary dams within the canal mark a significant milestone with water now flowing into the affected area of the canal for the first time since the flood.

The embankment reinstatement and strengthening works were made possible with funding from the Scottish Government, along with wider resilience measures in other key locations, to reduce the probability of similar scenarios.

Richard Millar, chief operating officer of Scottish Canals said: “The breach serves as a reminder to us of the vulnerability of our historic assets.

Union Canal at Muiravonside after repair work to the breach caused by floods in August 2020

“Historic and future land use, combined with an increasingly changing climate that includes more intense rainfall incidents, presents significant threats to the integrity our canal infrastructure.

“Our investigations have shown a complexity of interrelated events that occurred within the surrounding catchments led to our canal being damaged and breached.”He added: “We have worked tirelessly to repair the breach whilst also carrying out a number of climate change resilience works, which will form the start of an embankment strengthening programme along our network to future proof the canal for generations to come.”

Scottish Canals and Mackenzie Construction Limited have also undertaken a programme of climate change resilience works along the canal that include upgrading overflow weirs, culverts under the canal, emergency stop plank installations and monitoring equipment to assist in remote sensing and alerting of any significant events.

The area of the canal between Polmont and Linlithgow will be fully reinstated in April, but will remain closed for navigation until May 28 when Scottish Canals reopens the waterways to the boating community.

Thank you for reading this article on our free-to-read website. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a subscription to our print newspaper to help fund our trusted, fact-checked journalism.