Monday, 15 February 2010

Lift bridges on the Oxford

I want to write about the mechanisation of the lift bridges on the Oxford Canal. To this end I though the best place to start my research would be the BW website and their planning page. Therein was my my first hurdle.

The planning issues listed are apparently all the planning issues in the country. The first three listed are in Bath, a domestic extension, a variation to PP for a garage and a loft conversion. The links for these were all dead so even if they were of use to me I couldn’t get to them. So where to next?

I look at the user group page to see if I can find some reference but no help there.

I did however find this PDF file which is very interesting when considering the debacle that is threatening the Grantham canal restoration project.

OK so I need to get serious, ‘search engine’, there is a search function on the BW site. So “lift bridges” press enter. Lots of info about Scottish bridges and quite a bit about Anderton lift, which is strictly not a ‘bridge’, nothing about the Oxford bridges.

Local knowledge that’s always a good source of info. I have heard a lot about the whys and wherefore’s and as far as I can find out there have been two serious accidents involving bridges on the Oxford in recent years. One apparently cost BW a lot of money when they were sued by someone who was not even a boater. and the second when was just a year or so ago when a chap who was much the worse for having a tinny or two in him came to the LB at Thrupp on his boat late and mooring on the towpath side went across the bridge, lifted it, chained it down, climbed up the now 60o deck and jumped the 10 or so feet to the ground breaking both his legs. Natural stupidity wins again! It gets worse, apparently his girlfriend was on the boat!

I have to wonder if BW are trying to keep this quiet. After all they are about to waste £20,000 on each lift bridge. Why are they doing this? A simple sign that states, 'Only sober boat crews are allowed to operate the bridge', would be so much cheaper.

So we have a system that has been in place over 200 years. It has worked well all that time. Two idiots come along and do things that even a single brain cell understands as stupid and BW end up forking out a small fortune to stop them doing it again. Are BW over-reacting? Is some BW Exec spending their very limited resources trying to protect his H&S posterier. Or are they just too stupid to realise that when this has been fixed the idiots will move on to something else.

Only a couple of weeks ago I watched with incredulity as a child (probably 5 or 6) climbed up the balance beam of our bridge watched, nay, encouraged by his grandfather. When I pointed out that the bridge was not a toy and that if the child should fall he would break something, probably his skull, the grandfather was very indignant. I emphasised that people had been seriously hurt and all he could say was “OK I heard you the first time”. Idiots like this man are costing us all a lot of money.

Anyway by Easter the bridge at Thrupp will be fully automated. Boaters will be able to operate it from either side using a key. Two hundred years of history will have been changed forever because of the idiot mentality of a few, most of whom should have known better. It makes me want to scream and stamp my feet.

And relax . . . .

Maybe I should write about the bridges of the Oxford Canal another time.

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