The charity making life better by water

Divers service Artillery Street canal pumps in Birmingham

Some lock flights have pumping systems underground to back-pump water from the bottom to the top. This one needed some maintenance...

Divers prepare for the descent into the shaft

Maintaining our 250 year old network can be complex and time consuming, and occasionally we need external experts to give us a helping hand. A critical service of a pumping access shaft was needed, which could only be completed by lowering a diver 50 foot down the shaft. This work took three months of planning and collaboration between our teams and diving company Hughes Sub Surface Engineering.

The pumping station at Artillery Street, Bordesley, is critical to the operation of the Birmingham Canal system, pumping water up the Saltley lock flight to the Digbeth level. From there water is pumped on via Bowyer Street pumping station to the 10 Mile Pound on the Grand Union Canal.

Diver in the shaft

Shaft 13 near Artillery Street, on the Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal in Birmingham required an inflatable water stopper to be installed to help remove the water and allow access to the pumps for repairs to be undertaken, ensuring that they work efficiently.

The shaft had no means of access at the bottom and very limited access at the top opening. Given the dive equipment needed, the diver could only just fit through the manhole opening and only one diver could access the shaft at a time given space constraints inside. Although most of the water was removed with the pump shut down, six foot of water remained, meaning the use of a diver was the only option.


A remotely-operated vehicle was used to check that the access shaft was structurally safe before the diver entered, as the last full inspection was in 1985. During the dive, the operation is monitored from above via video and audio links, as well as information on the air supply system.

The work took two days to complete, with the objective achieved to install an inflatable water barrier to hold back water in the pump system when needed.

Further works are needed at Artillery Street, so look out for our teams working there in the new year.

Last Edited: 18 January 2017

photo of a location on the canals
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