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Police close to catching Falkirk Wheel vandals

News

POLICE INVESTIGATING the sabotage of Scotland's Falkirk Wheel boat lift were thought to be close to an arrest earlier this week.

Latest enquiries are not thought to be centering on current or former site employees.

'There was a degree of premeditation in this crime, plus knowledge of the site, and we have interviewed construction workers as a matter of routine, ' said a Central Scotland Police spokesperson.

Officers are treating the sabotage as 'malicious mischief' - an offence more serious than vandalism. It is thought at least two people were involved.

Yesterday's planned opening was cancelled as initial damage estimates doubled to £200,000.

The wheel's sensitive electronic and hydraulic equipment was flooded when vandals smashed through padlocked lock gates a fortnight ago, releasing over 80M litres of canal water to cascade on to the £20M futuristic structure (News last week).

The night time deluge continued undetected for four hours, flooding a lower basin and submerging one of the wheel's gondolas under 3m of water.

'Damage is worse than we feared, with hydraulic fluid contaminated, pumps ruined and electronics still drying out, ' said Jim Steele, project manager for main contractor, Morrison/ Bachy Soletanche joint venture.

'Hundreds of metres of cabling are in danger of long term bi-metallic corrosion so will eventually need renewing.'

With long lead times on replacing several of the 100 or so ruined components, it is likely that client British Waterways will initially relax the 25 year contractual guarantee needed on electrical and mechanical equipment, allowing 'temporary' repairs to secure the wheel's opening during the Queen's visit in three weeks.

INFOPLUS www. nceplus.co.uk/magazine

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