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News article created on 22 August 2014

Blisworth Tunnel celebrates milestone anniversary

The longest canal tunnel on the Grand Union Canal is celebrating 30 years since it reopened after repairs to avert a major collapse.

In the early 1980s Blisworth Tunnel was forced to shut because it was perilously close to collapsing. The major event severed a historically important trade route between London and Birmingham which, during the 19th Century, had helped to fuel the nation’s Industrial Revolution.

Blisworth Tunnel is the longest navigable wide canal tunnel in the country and its reopening in 1984 after several years of closure was an important moment in the renaissance of the nation’s canal network.

Red wheel

As part of the celebrations the tunnel has been presented with a ‘Red Wheel’ plaque by the Transport Trust, in recognition of the historical importance of this amazing engineering success.

The nationwide Red Wheel scheme, which commemorates transport sites of historical interest, is similar to the English Heritage Blue Plaques, was launched in 2009.

Double celebration

James Clifton, enterprise manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Today is a double celebration and we are absolutely delighted that the Transport Trust has chosen to award Blisworth Tunnel with this ‘Red Wheel’ plaque 30 years after the tunnel was reopened.

“This award recognises the efforts of the many workers who dug the tunnel virtually by hand which, once opened, connected London and the Midlands by canal.”

Stuart Wilkinson, chairman of the Transport Trust, said: “We are delighted to be making this award today. Our 200-year old canal network is an outstanding example of Britain's transport heritage and, within it, Blisworth Tunnel was the final link in the London to Birmingham 'Grand Junction Canal' - 'the M1 of its day'.  It deserves to be better known.”