A section of the Grand Union Canal in Northolt is now blocked following the sudden collapse of a bridge.
The wooden footbridge linking Smith’s Farm with Marnham Fields had been closed to pedestrians for many years amid fears about its structural safety. Time finally ran out for the bridge on last Friday (17 March 2023) when it gave way, sending tonnes of rafters into the canal below.
Posting on the Ealing Wildlife Group Facebook page, Emma Chard-Cumming said: “Sometime late afternoon yesterday (17 March 2023) the beautiful single-span Green Oak bridge between Marnham Fields and Smiths Farm finally succumbed to the elements and lack of maintenance. Authorities are aware, as this is not only a canal closure but also a towpath closure. Very sad to see but hopefully, this might speed up the installation of the new metal bridge planned by Ealing Council.”
They said: “Bridge 17A, a local authority owned footbridge, has collapsed and has blocked the navigation. The towpath remains open via a short local alternative route. The local authority is determining how the bridge can be removed.
The Trust added that it’s Ealing Council, as owners of the bridge, who must decide how to recover the mass of debris.
A Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “We are aware of the disruption that this is causing to Canal users, and we are working with the Canal and River Trust to agree an action plan on removal of debris and sections of the bridge. We expect that works will start in the next 48 hours.”
A Friends of Grand Union Canal spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “Whilst the loss of this beautiful oak bridge is sad, Ealing Council correctly identified that the bridge was unsafe several years ago and closed it several years ago. The closure of the navigation has effectively cut off the use of the Paddington Arm until the bridge can be removed. We hope that Ealing Council is able to arrange the clear up of the bridge swiftly.”
They added: “There is some good news as before the collapse, planning has been granted for a new metal bridge to be installed, and this will be in place in the coming months.”
Pedestrians can get past the collapsed bridge by taking a short diversion but the canal is likely to remain closed to boats for weeks, forcing them on a 43-mile diversion via the tidal River Thames and the Regents Canal.
It’s also a major headache for the Canal & River Trust whose workboats based at Adelaide Yard in Southall cannot reach sections of the Paddington Arm east of Northolt.