In March 1988 after some unsuccessful piling repairs, the north bank of the river Aire (the old river) breached at a point some yards downstream from Lemonroyd locks. The Opencast Management suggested that the weakness was possibly a geological fault under the river. Water from the river and canal system was able to pour unchecked into the adjacent St. Aidan’s opencast workings completely flooding the site. All photographs in this article taken by Barry Seage.
Recovery of the workings included proposals to divert the river and canal and re-construct a single new course. After lengthy consideration and the need of an Act of Parliament to proceed, the engineers were able to commence the civil engineering works in 1993.
A large construction challenge, the work required, excavation, suitable lining of the new bed, construction of new locks and a weir, a dock for pleasure craft, two new bridges which included access for vehicles over the span on the former Caroline bridge site and closure of two original locks (Lemonroyd and Kippax locks).
The completed stretch would enable the largest items of canal traffic to pass, at the same time the banks would be of sufficient construction to protect against the worst projected flooding levels.
The new river and weir would also take account of the increased levels of fish. During construction the canal had to be closed for a period, however pleasure craft were able to ‘navigate’ the civil works by being elevated with a mobile crane and transported by articulated mover and re-floated by the same crane which followed.