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News article created on 24 January 2014

Divers brave freezing water to repair safety gates

A team of divers will brave freezing waters in order to carry out vital underwater inspections to a number of our safety gates along the canals in the West Midlands.

The project will involve inspecting a number of safety gates located within the wall of the towpath or along the bottom of the canal. 

The gates, which are made from wood or metal, are designed to protect homes and businesses in the rare event that there is a breach in the canal bed or embankment and work by automatically closing if there is a surge of water rushing along the canal. The weight of the water will keep the gates closed and create a water-tight seal preventing any further water from emptying out of the canal and into the surrounding areas.

Thorough inspection

Dean Davies, waterways manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “These safety gates are a brilliant yet simple piece of engineering. They are extremely important which is why we carry out a thorough inspection of them every year. Although they are rarely used we need to make sure that they are in good working order and can easily close should they spring into action.

“This time of year the water in the canal is freezing and although the divers are well equipped and used to working in these sorts of conditions we can only have them in the water for a few minutes at a time otherwise they will start to suffer from the effects of the cold. The specialist team of divers will inspect the gates to make sure they are in good working order, ensure that any debris or silt around the gate is removed and if necessary carry out any minor repairs.”

The inspections will take places along the Birmingham Main Line Canal, the Tame Valley Canal and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and work is expected to last around two weeks.