Plugging the gap - draining Birmingham canal

For those used to the calm canal waters between Brindleyplace and the Mailbox, a stretch of the Worcester and Birmingham canal which meets the Birmingham Canal Main Line at Gas Street Basin, a gap without water has appeared.  

A complex operation likely to take weeks is underway to close a hole at the bottom of the canal aqueduct constructed to carry a now disused railway under the canal.  The section of canal was drained last weekend, 21-22 February, and engineers recently worked to establish the source of the leak which threatens a disused railway tunnel,

Hayley Harper, from the Canal & River Trust, said: “The leak appears to be quite significant so we need to know as soon as possible exactly where it’s coming from. The only way we can know for sure is to drain the canal and thoroughly inspect the aqueduct. I can’t remember the last time we drained this part of the canal so it will also be interesting to see what other changes have occurred to the canal bed as well as finding out exactly what has caused this leak.”

Rail Around Birmingham,, a website dedicated to the history of the railway network around Birmingham provides a useful introduction to the railway heritage and former railway tunnel noting the site of a former railway goods yard adjacent to the Mailbox,

With the canal drained and large hole found in the bed of the canal investigations will continue to establish what caused the hole and to establish if it is the only source of the leak.

Lawrence Tall, from the Canal & River Trust, said: “We’ve drained the canal and stopped the leak and are now investigating how best to repair the leak.  It’s still early days but it is likely we will have to repair part of the canal bed. This will be a big job and will involve using specialist machinery to remove the old canal bed, lay down a new clay lining which, once in place, will reinstate a watertight seal along the aqueduct.”

Hundreds of fish were rescued as the water level dropped with fish scooped out after being stunned by electricity and then put into bins filled with fresh water before being released back into a different section of canal,

The photos below show the canal and works on 26 February.


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