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I had planned to take the Old Main Line from Tipton to Birmingham today, but at 10 this morning I received an e-mail from CRT saying the works on the embankment at Tipton had finished early so the canal had been re-watered and would re-open today. The heading said "Navigation: Open"  so I phoned CRT as I approached Factory Junction and asked if it was open already or if it would open later (and if so, at what time). The operator said it was no longer on their database of stoppages so it must be open already, but I would be able to tell at the Junction because there would be a "closed" sign on the locks if there was still a stoppage. There was no sign so I went down the locks and along to the aqueduct where I found a barrier across the canal. I looked on the website, no stoppage was shown.

 

Another call to CRT connected me to the West Midlands office who said they didn't know the situation but would speak to the local team and let me know. After 10 minutes of music on hold the call dropped out. Another call to CRT and they were unable to contact the West Midlands office.

 

While I was on the phone again to CRT a passer-by told me the aqueduct was still drained (he lied, I could see it wasn't) then a worker on a dumptruck on the towpath told me the work was on-going and would take another week (he was lying too). Another passer by told me everything was clear so he suggested I just untie the barrier and proceed; another call to CRT produced the info that they'd spoken to the local supervisor and their team would be there to remove the barrier in 15 minutes.

 

After half an hour I managed to get ashore and walk the length of the stoppage; all works were complete, the canal was full of water, but the floating barriers were in place and the route was blocked by 3 CRT work boats. Another call to CRT and the local supervisor said the canal was open; when I said it wasn't they said they'd have to call back. After half an hour they actually called back to tell me the person who drives the workboat had been unable to get to the bank to unload it but hadn't wanted to admit it so had lied to his supervisor that he'd finished ok and the supervisor had reported the canal as open. In fact it "might be open tomorrow"

 

Eventually I reversed back to Factory locks, then up the locks backwards and finally after 3 and a half hours (and 6 calls to CRT totalling almost an hour) we eventually continued around to Tipton for a meal and several drinks.

 

The words CRT, piss-up, brewery, couldn't organise, come to mind!

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I saw the email stating it was open earlier today.  That all sounds a bit of a cockup and totally unnecessary as it was not due to open anyway so there was no need to push it.  Poor management really.

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8 minutes ago, john6767 said:

I saw the email stating it was open earlier today.  That all sounds a bit of a cockup and totally unnecessary as it was not due to open anyway so there was no need to push it.  Poor management really.

In CRT?  Surely not?

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Hmmm. I’m heading for Tipton today, for the first time, currently on the N Stratford. Which bit’s got the problem? In the Nicholson’s my options seem to be either the Wolverhampton Level or Birmingham Level, which was my intended route. Any guidance much appreciated, also where’s good and quiet to moor in Tipton? 

Edited by Phlea
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IIRC (but we are told the notice has now disappeared!) it was quite straightforward for a through route provided you knew where to turn at the correct moment (ie up Brades) to take the Old Main Line. Same number of locks (you still have to get to the Wolverhampton :Level whatever) but a more contour led route. Just a tad further (ie why the new Main Line was built).

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4 minutes ago, Phlea said:

Hmmm. I’m heading for Tipton today, for the first time, currently on the N Stratford. Which bit’s gig the problem? In the Nicholson’s my options seem to be either the Wolverhampton Level or Birmingham Level which was my intended route. Any guidance much appreciated, also where’s good and quiet to moor in Tipton? 

It's on the Birmingham Level of the New Main Line, between the Netherton tunnel junction and Factory locks, so is easily avoided by using the Old Main Line. Of course, it may be open again soon.

 

In Tipton there are good moorings with rings on the towpath outside the Fountain Inn, or opposite (ie offside) in front of the Health Centre on the "John the Lock" visitor moorings.

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I had a reply from CRT this morning, which substantially explains, but does not excuse, the events.

 

"The Project Manager for the works has advised the below:

 

There was an issue yesterday hence there is cause for an apology to you .


The canal should’ve been open yesterday.  The canal wall works were complete but some repairs to the brickwork parapets of a vandalised aqueduct were still on going.  This work did not need the canal to remain drained-out hence this could continue whilst the canal was being re-filled.  I believe this is why one of the site staff reported to yourself that works would still be ongoing for another week on site – the repairs will carry on until early next week.  What the operative should’ve clarified however is that the navigation-affected works were completed.

 

Even though the canal should have been opened yesterday, there were still signs and barriers out informing the public that works were being carried out ahead.  These are the last things to be removed when works are complete, but there removal was delayed due to the moving of our pontoon further down the canal.  The pontoon was very wide as it had to contain material and plant for the stoppage such as pumps.  However, the pontoon had to be moored right in the middle of the canal due to vandals trying to climb aboard it and wreak havoc by damaging the pumps, throwing equipment into the re-watered canal and (more importantly) emptying the huge fuel tanks into the canal.  The entire project has been blighted by instances of vandalism for several months now and we have tried to re-open the canal just before the Easter holidays began to avoid conflicts such as this.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get chance to relocate the pontoon in time for the re-opening and reports of further threats on site meant that it had to remain in the centre of the navigation until today, so the boom also remained in place to prevent boats approaching it too.  We’ve worked hard this morning to recover the plant and equipment (and fuel storage tanks!) from the pontoon so that boats can get past now, albeit a day later than advertised. Please accept my apologies, I was keen to reopen the canal as soon as possible but should’ve checked that this pontoon was out of the way first. The pontoon was held in place to avert a potential pollution incident which could’ve been caused by vandals releasing the fuel, I hope you can see the reason behind our actions. "

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4 minutes ago, Keeping Up said:

However, the pontoon had to be moored right in the middle of the canal due to vandals trying to climb aboard it and wreak havoc by damaging the pumps, throwing equipment into the re-watered canal and (more importantly) emptying the huge fuel tanks into the canal.

 

An area that presumably is not high on the list of 'places to stop'.

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Yikes! I’m now worried about passing through there, is that near the three locks we have to go down. We’ve already had to call police this morning to escort us through an area where we were being attacked by youths throwing large chunks of wood at us!  

Sorry, not down, up! 

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42 minutes ago, Phlea said:

Yikes! I’m now worried about passing through there, is that near the three locks we have to go down. We’ve already had to call police this morning to escort us through an area where we were being attacked by youths throwing large chunks of wood at us!  

Sorry, not down, up! 

You have 4 choices of route to use the get from the Birmingham level to the Wolverhampton level.  The works rebuilding the towpath walls only impacted  the use of Factory locks.  If you are going from Birmingham to Wolverhampton then you could go up Smethwick locks and go all the way on the Old Main Line, or go further on the New Main Line and use Brades locks on the Gower branch to go up.  That is an interesting route as Brades has the only staircase on the BCN.  The other route is Spon Lane locks, which is interesting from a historical perspective but not the most convenient if you are just using this as a through route.

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5 hours ago, john6767 said:

You have 4 choices of route to use the get from the Birmingham level to the Wolverhampton level.  The works rebuilding the towpath walls only impacted  the use of Factory locks.  If you are going from Birmingham to Wolverhampton then you could go up Smethwick locks and go all the way on the Old Main Line, or go further on the New Main Line and use Brades locks on the Gower branch to go up.  That is an interesting route as Brades has the only staircase on the BCN.  The other route is Spon Lane locks, which is interesting from a historical perspective but not the most convenient if you are just using this as a through route.

Thanks for the guidance. We came up Smethwick Locks with few issues other than a pair of joggers around the prop in lock 1, and a virtually empty pound between 2 and 3, which were both soon sorted.

 

Saw ‘Keeping up’ moored up but nobody seemed at home! ? 

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1 minute ago, Phlea said:

We came up Smethwick Locks with few issues other than a pair of joggers around the prop in lock 1

Were they Sliced-&-Diced or did they drown ?

That blood is very difficult to get off isn't it - it really does stain.

 

 

What did the Police say ?

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Just now, Alan de Enfield said:

Were they Sliced-&-Diced or did they drown ?

That blood is very difficult to get off isn't it - it really does stain.

 

 

What did the Police say ?

Hahaha! Very good ? 

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We're at Tipton, came up today from Hatton via the North Stratford and through Brades locks without incident (apart from having to clear the prop several times). Very quiet - saw very few other boats on the move.

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1 minute ago, Farey said:

We're at Tipton, came up today from Hatton via the North Stratford and through Brades locks without incident (apart from having to clear the prop several times). Very quiet - saw very few other boats on the move.

Virtually the same trip as us apart from the choice of last locks, and we’ve found a quiet mooring just short of Tipton. Did you have any trouble on the Stratford? We were bombarded with chunks of tree by youths just before the tunnel ?

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2 minutes ago, Farey said:

We're sitting in the Fountain Inn. No trouble at all on the N Stratford. Down through Wolverhampton and on the Shropshire Union tomorrow. 

Ah, enjoy! We’re going into the ‘Curley Wyrley’ to Norton Canes

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1 hour ago, Phlea said:

 

Saw ‘Keeping up’ moored up but nobody seemed at home! ? 

Except for Jessop the dog, who takes his duties very seriously when we're out, to lie spread out on the duvet to make sure nobody steals the bedding. He cunningly camouflages himself on the bed by pretending to be asleep!

  • Greenie 2
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