The charity making life better by water

Following in the footsteps of Britain's great canal engineers

Civil engineering contracts awarded to help protect and preserve 2,000 miles of historic waterways, providing resilience to a changing climate.

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From flights of locks, to reservoirs and 250-year-old tunnels and soaring aqueducts, we have awarded contracts to JN Bentley and Kier to carry out large-scale construction and engineering projects across our 2,000 miles of historic waterways over the next decade.

The new contracts

The new contracts, replacing the current national contract with Kier, have a potential total value of approximately £500m and are our largest ever award of waterway engineering works. Playing a pivotal role in helping us protect and preserve our canals, reservoirs and river navigations, the contracts will commence in August 2022, with an initial mobilisation phase.

The canal network has been rediscovered and is today used by more people than at any point in its history. As well as being navigated by boats in the same way as during the Industrial Revolution, the network is also gearing up to play a pivotal role in the resilience of towns and cities, helping them to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Covering the north and south of the network respectively, JN Bentley and Kier will carry out the largest restoration and repair projects and will work on our most complex assets such as reservoirs, embankments, culverts, tunnels and aqueducts – including responding to dynamic situations, such as flooding or canal breaches. Later this month, a range of contractors will also be appointed for delivering fewer complex works.

Working industrial heritage

Malcolm Horne, our chief infrastructure and programmes officer, said: “Built 250 years ago as arteries of the Industrial Revolution, today Britain's canals are the world's finest network of working industrial heritage. They now play an equally important role in society as corridors for nature, tackling health inequalities and improving community wellbeing, as well as supporting jobs and local economies.

“The ongoing task of caring for the thousands of historic assets that make up this extraordinary infrastructure network requires a substantial programme of work. I am delighted to welcome the appointment of JN Bentley and Kier, who will be working with us to protect and preserve our waterways.

“We are also striving to ensure that the network is as resilient as possible to more extreme weather in the face of a changing climate, investing in reservoirs and other key assets to strengthen infrastructure for the benefit of canal users and neighbouring communities. Our contractors will play a vital role in ensuring the safety of the waterways and safeguarding their future, whilst enabling us to improve value for money and continuing to deliver an effective emergency response when required.”

Restoration and repair site on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Forming long term relationships

We're the third largest owner of listed structures in the UK, including 46 Scheduled Monuments. The new contracts will cover our 1,582 locks, 55 tunnels, 2,970 bridges, 281 aqueducts and 71 reservoirs. The maintenance of these historic assets requires a huge amount of knowledge, technical expertise, and sensitivity.

Ian Bester, operations director at JN Bentley, said: “JN Bentley is delighted to be appointed to the Civil Engineering Contract Framework with the Canal & River Trust – an important new client for us and providing a fantastic opportunity to be involved with preserving and enhancing the industrial and natural heritage of the country.

“Securing the framework will allow us to bring our transferrable skills developed from 50 years of experience in the water and environment sectors. We'll focus on collaborating with the Trust and their partners to deliver safe, sustainable, high quality and innovative solutions for users of waterways across the UK.

“We look forward to forging a long-term relationship together and helping Canal & River Trust continue to make life better by water.”

Eddie Quinn, director at Kier Infrastructure Regional Civil Engineering, said: “We are incredibly proud of our longstanding partnership with the Canal & River Trust, carrying out maintenance works and emergency response services at times when they, and local communities, have needed it most.

“We are delighted to have been appointed to the new Civil Engineering Contract Framework, where we will continue to work collaboratively with the Trust to deliver vital infrastructure projects.”

The new contracts are awarded for a period of up to ten years from August 2022, with an initial term of four years, followed by extension options of a further six years. A rigorous six-stage tender process was carried out over a 20-month period.

Kingfisher in flight with small fish in its beak

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Last Edited: 09 August 2022

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