A major milestone has been reached in Calderdale’s recovery from the Boxing Day floods with a section of canal hardest hit by the force of the floodwaters reopening to boats for the first time.
This week we have reopened the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Elland. The canal had been closed to boats since floodwaters washed out the foundations of Elland Bridge, which crosses over it, meaning that the whole structure needed to be rebuilt.
The reopening reinstates an important link for boaters between the Rochdale Canal and the rest of the waterway network. Boaters will now be able to make their way from the main waterway network onto the Rochdale Canal where they can use the businesses and services at popular canalside stop-offs such as Sowerby Bridge and Hebden Bridge.
Engineers have been carefully dismantling the bridge Grade II listed bridge, built in 1811, with the stone being catalogued and stored so that it can be reused on the replacement bridge. At the same time similar works have been taking place at nearby Crowther Bridge which was also seriously damaged by the floodwaters.
In recent weeks engineers have been working to form the foundations at both bridges and works have now progressed to the stage where they can carry on whilst boats use the canal.
Jon Horsfall, waterway manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “We’re delighted that we’re now in a position to reopen the canal at Elland and it marks a significant milestone in our efforts to get things back on track.
“We know that it’s been a difficult time for many of the waterside businesses and they’ve been really patient and understanding.
“The hard work goes on but hopefully this will give a real boost to local businesses and the community as a whole. We’re gradually getting life back to normal on our waterways and we hope that people will take the opportunity to get out onto our wonderful local waterways and enjoy exploring all they have to offer.”
Nigel Stevens from Shire Cruisers boat yard in Sowerby Bridge, offering hire boats, private moorings and a boat repairs, said; “This is very welcome news, for six months, boaters on the rest of the canal system have been cut off from the magic of Hebden Bridge and the Rochdale Canal. We greatly look forward to welcoming them back. And our hirers will be thrilled to explore further afield.”
The Government has pledged up to £5m for the replacement of the bridges. Managing the two projects in tandem will mean that the most can be made of cost-efficiencies in design and construction.
It’s anticipated that both bridges will be built and available for use before the end of the year. A temporary footbridge next to Elland Bridge which was constructed in January will remain in place throughout the works.