WIDENING WORK costing £200,000 begins this week on a two year old stretch of the Rochdale Canal near Oldham which has turned out to be too narrow for broad beam craft to pass.
The Chadderton section was built to divert the canal away from the route of the new M60 and was partly funded by the Millennium Commission. A condition of the funding was that the canal, which is due to re-open to navigation next spring, should be open to narrowboats and broad beam barges.
But after the concrete trough diversion was completed two years ago, it was discovered that the bend on the diversion was too tight for broad beam barges to pass.
Consultant Mouchel was responsible for the diversion design as part of its work for the Highways Agency on the £49M M60 section that passes through the area. A Highways Agency spokesman confirmed that the problem was 'the internal responsibility' of the Agency.
'We are having to widen the canal by a maximum of 1m over a 10m length', he added. This work will be carried out by Balfour Beatty.
Narrowboats are limited to an overall length of just under 22m and a beam of 2.1m by the maximum size of locks on older canals like the Oxford. Broad beam boats need locks at least 3.7m wide, but few are longer than 25m.
The last through navigation of the 50km canal, which opened nearly 200 years ago, was in the late 1930s. Stretches at each end, from the centre of Manchester eastward and from Sowerby Bridge westwards to Littleborough, have been navigable for some time. British Waterways last year received the go-ahead for a £23.8M restoration of the 27km central section, some of which is now in culvert underneath the M62 and Failsworth town centre (NCE 17 February 2000).