Around £19.95 million of improvement works are set to get under way across Scotland’s canals this winter.

The capital investment from Scottish Government will see major works and essential upgrades take place throughout the canal network, "safeguarding the heritage assets for the future".

This planned investment is part of Scottish Canals’ long term strategy which prioritises improvements on all canal infrastructure in Scotland, based on condition and risk.

READ MORE: £1.8m Caledonian Canal revamp to boost tourism

Around £4 million will be spent on improvements on the Caledonian Canal, which contributes £15 million to the local economy in the Highlands.HeraldScotland: Gairlochy Swing Bridge on the Caledonian CanalGairlochy Swing Bridge on the Caledonian Canal

Key works here include the replacement of Gairlochy top lock gates at Lock 17, which are not only the largest gates on the Caledonian Canal, but the whole canal network in Scotland.

The gates are vital in the flood defence mechanism separating Loch Lochy from the canal infrastructure and communities west of this point. Lock 17 gates at Gairlochy are over 30 years old and therefore based on age, condition and risk, are considered a priority for replacement to remain an effective flood defence.

Catherine Topley, Chief Executive at Scottish Canals said: “The lock gates at Gairlochy have been welcoming our boating customers and creating a barrier against Loch Lochy for over 30 years and as they reach the end of their life expectancy it is vital we work to improve these heritage assets so we may safeguard them for another generation.

“The Caledonian Canal welcomes over 1,400 boats each year and supports the Highland economy. By investing in our assets throughout the canal, we are not only improving the canal infrastructure, we are investing in the local area and ensuring the waterway can bring tourism for many years to come.”

Works to install the new pair of lock gates will take place from November 2020 to March 2021. During this period, there will also be various upgrades to Gairlochy Swing Bridge, improving the safety of both staff and visitors who use it.

Throughout the winter, £3.7 million will also be spent upgrading Lock Gates 1-4 and improving numerous bridges on the Crinan Canal. In addition, surveys will be undertaken to assess the remaining gates on the Crinan Canal, which are deemed priority for replacement due to age and risk.

Within the capital investment, £1 million has been dedicated to dredging in both Highland canals, whereas on the Union Canal, £6.25 million has been granted to reinstate the canal and towpath at Muiravonside following a major breach in August 2020.

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