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Canal Trust battles to repair ancient West India dock gates at Canary Wharf

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 March 2016

Divers take a dip in Canary Wharf's West India Dock to fix lock gates

Divers take a dip in Canary Wharf's West India Dock to fix lock gates

Canal Trust

Divers are battling against pressure from thousands of tonnes of water and tidal surges from the Thames to repair a huge set of gates at the historic West India Dock on the Isle of Dogs.

So heavy that the West India lock gates have to be floated in Thames to be repairedSo heavy that the West India lock gates have to be floated in Thames to be repaired

The gates built in 1929 for London’s bustling shipping trade, when the British Empire stretched around the globe, are vital to let ocean-going cruise liners, luxury yachts and the Royal Navy enter the revamped Canary Wharf.

The Canal & River Trust which looks after Britain’s waterways is carrying out the work repairing the gates that each weigh 160 tonnes—so heavy that they can’t even use big cranes to lift them out.

“We have to float them off because they’re so heavy,” project manager Colin Perkins explained. “It’s a tough challenge with the weight of thousands of tonnes of water and tidal pressure from the Thames.”

The £920,000 project includes strengthening the gates to withstand corrosion from tidal estuary saltwater and relining the underwater seals on the lock bed to make them watertight.

This makes sure the gates work efficiently for the hundreds of boats passing through each year and to control water levels.

The waterways charity has already repaired lock gates in on the Regent’s Canal at Mile End and Kentish Town, but on a smaller scale where they were able to use cranes to lift the locks gates in and out for repair.

It was also a chance for 3,000 people to walk along the bottom of the drained canal—something that only comes once in a lifetime.

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