The demolition of the Cyberbytes Cafe was just one part of the huge task that was required to re-open the Wester Hailes section of the Union Canal. The Millennium Link restored both the Union and the Forth and Clyde Canals to link up the West and East coasts of Scotland with fully navigable waterways for the first time in over 35 years. It was Scotland’s most expensive and ambitious Millennium project, funded in part by the Millennium Commission. With the work completed ten years ago, the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift is perhaps now the most famous symbol of the two canals being rejoined.
However, after the Falkirk wheel, the most challenging and complex piece of work required to restore the two canals was the work carried out at Wester Hailes. The canal now looks such a permanent feature of the area, it can be hard to remember that only a few years ago, it could not be seen and the bridges that are now taken for granted were not there.
The Wester Hailes project was broken into two phases to make it more manageable. It would require the redigging and filling of 1.7km of canal, the
realigning of roads and the construction of new bridges. The first phase was completed in summer 2000 and involved recutting 850 metres of canal between Wester Hailes Road and Murrayburn Road. A new concrete road bridge to allow the Wester Hailes Road to cross the canal was constructed. A winding hole to enable boats to turn was also added along with bankside mooring areas and landscaping.
The second phase produced another 850 metres of canal between Murrayburn Road and Dumbryden Road. Six new road bridges and three footbridges were constructed. In March 2000, the Sentinel reported on the felling of trees along Hailesland Road to enable the canal to pass through. You can see the story here at Sentinel March 2000. In September 2000, the Sentinel printed a canal update that shows the scale of the works that were taking place, including bridge construction, new roads and public utility works.
You can see some great photographs recording the work of both these phases at James’s Canal Pages. There’s also an exhibition in WHALE Arts Centre showing the progress of the canal’s re-opening. WHALE are collecting comments about the images so if you remember what it was like before the canal was re-opened or the canal work or the celebrations you could add to the information on display.
To celebrate the restoration of the canal through Wester Hailes, there’s a community event being held on Saturday 10th September at the Westside Water Front opposite the Plaza, next to the garage. There’ll be a range of canal related activities, stalls, music and a barbecue from 12pm to 4pm.