Tag Archives: Victoria Lock

Newry and Narrow Water

I wrote a few days ago about the proposed bridge across Carlingford Lough at Narrowwater (or Narrow Water). I was reminded of that today on reading a debate, held in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 30 September 2013, about a proposed Newry Southern Relief Road [thanks to theyworkforyou.com].

Apart from an admittedly minor mistake made by a Sinn Féin MLA about the Newry Canal (first summit-level canal, not “oldest inland waterway” in These Islands), the debate was remarkable for its demonstration of cross-party agreement: not so much on the desirability of public works (a desideratum of Irish politicians since the eighteenth century) as on the irrelevance of the Narrowwater bridge. Jim Wells [DUP] said:

There has also been some progress on the Narrow Water bridge project, although we do not know exactly where we stand. First, that bridge is far from certain, and, secondly, even if it were built, it would not relieve much of the traffic that we are dealing with. It would certainly not relieve the large number of juggernauts coming through from Warrenpoint harbour.

Sean Rogers [SDLP] said:

Narrow Water bridge is merely a tourist bridge, but the relief road would take heavy goods vehicles off the streets of Newry, reduce traffic congestion and attract even more shoppers to the city. Heavy goods vehicles would also have a direct route to Warrenpoint port, increasing trade in the port area.

And the other contributors to the debate did not mention it, which suggests to me that it is seen as irrelevant to the traffic problems of Warrenpoint and of Newry.

The Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy [UUP], gave a lengthy response to the debate, including this point:

A more detailed technical investigation of the specific options for crossing the Newry canal was also recommended, given the sensitive nature of this important heritage feature. It is expected to require at least the provision of a bascule, or lifting bridge, to allow the passage of tall ships on the canal. The width of the Victoria lock already limits the size of ship that can enter the canal and it is expected that any bridge would maintain a navigation channel that matches the width of the sea lock. My Department will continue to consult with NIEA on how the impact of the proposal on the canal might be mitigated and an appropriate design developed.

And it seems that one of the areas being considered for the road is Fathom, which is where the Victoria Lock is. It is a short distance north (and upstream) of the border.

It must surely be unlikely that there will be two crossings of Carlingford or the Newry River [and canal] within a few miles of each other. But if one option, the Newry Southern Relief Road, helps to relieve Newry and Warrenpoint traffic and the other, the Narrowwater bridge, doesn’t do so, then the first option would seem to be the rational choice.

Although I wouldn’t bother providing for “tall ships”.



Shannon traffic to June 2013

The figures for Shannon lock passages to the end of June 2013 are now available. The decline continues, though perhaps more slowly.

Shannon traffic Jan to June percent

Shannon lock and bridge passages January to June as percentages of the 2003 number

The usual caveats apply: the underlying figures (kindly supplied by Waterways Ireland) do not record total waterways usage because, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded. The passage records are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the Shannon but they would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats. It is quite possible, therefore, that overall usage might be increasing while long-distance cruising was declining.

Shannon traffic Jan to June private

Shannon lock and bridge passages by private boats January to June

As it happens, the figures show a small increase over 2012 in passages by private boats. I suspect that July’s warm weather will spur a further increase.

Folk living in Ireland, whether owners or prospective hirers, are likely to be able to react quickly to better (or worse) weather by doing more (or less) boating; folk living abroad may be less able to change their holiday plans. Accordingly, July’s weather might (I’m speculating here) mean an increase in passages by private boats and by boats hired by Irish residents; it might not lead to an increase in hiring from abroad.

Traffic in hired boats continued to decline in June.

Shannon traffic Jan to June hire

Shannon lock and bridge passages by hired boats January to June

That decline outweighed the small increase in private traffic, leading to an overall decline in the first six months as compared with the same period in 2012, which itself continued the pattern set in 2007.

Shannon traffic Jan to June all

Shannon lock and bridge passages by all boats January to June

I wondered whether the figures might show any change in the geographical distribution of activity. WI’s reports don’t show separate figures for private and hired boats for the individual locks, but it seems to me that the hire business is becoming more concentrated on northern waters, from Lough Ree upwards. If that is so, then there might be an increase in the proportion of passages through the northern locks, from Tarmonbarry upwards, and a decrease in the proportion passing through Portumna Bridge and Meelick (Victoria) Lock.

I put the WI reporting stations in four groups:

  • Portumna + Meelick
  • Athlone
  • Tarmonbarry, Clondra, Roosky, Jamestown (Albert), Knockvicar (Clarendon)
  • the also-rans: the three locks leading to Lough Allen, Pollboy leading to Ballinasloe, the Limerick sea-lock (Sarsfield).

The figures suggest that the distribution is indeed changing, but gradually rather than dramatically. Athlone’s figures are pretty steady, the outliers are declining slightly and Portumna + Meelick are declining a bit more; the northern locks (Tarmonbarry to Knockvicar) are taking the gains. Comments or alternative interpretations welcome.

Change by region

Lock passages by group

The figures for 2013 are for the six months January to June; those for other years are for twelve months.

The locks could of course be grouped in other ways, and I may try some of them in future months.

Lock sizes on the Shannon Navigation

Some figures.

A load of old bollards

Our London Correspondent reports that the latest and most fashionable souvenir to go on sale there is a reproduction cast-iron “paperweight/doorstop/bookend based on the mooring bollards of Regents Canal”. Available in black or fluorescent red, these items were designed by a designer who was being worked with by another chap who was commissioned by a Creative Agency. The result is a “desirable antidote to the overly-commercial, tacky souvenirs” available elsewhere, it says here.

Shannon Commission bollard 1844_resize

A bollard at Meelick

Well, that’s nice. Maybe Waterways Ireland could commission the same creative types to design a range of reproductions of Irish waterways bollards; folk could be encouraged to collect the entire set.

But one minor drawback does strike me. The artistic merits of these reproduction bollards are of course obvious, but as souvenirs they have one minor drawback. A souvenir is something you buy, while on holiday, to take home to someone else. Nowadays, the steamer services are not what they once were and many folk travel on these new-fangled flying-machines. But according to that nice Mr O’Leary, who operates some such machines, you may take only 10 kg of cabin baggage. These bollards, though, weigh about 1.5 kg each, which rather limits the number of bollards you can carry as souvenirs.

Some updates

Very often, when I’m visiting a waterway site, I take as many photographs as possible of anything that catches my eye, without worrying [at the time] about what an artefact is or what it does. Then, when I get back to my computer, I try to work out what everything was. Sometimes I find that the camera has recorded something I didn’t notice; sometimes I find there are aspects I just don’t understand (not being at all a technical person). In such cases, I put photos on this site and make it clear that I don’t understand them.

My hope is, of course, that a knowledgeable person will explain them, and that very thing has just happened with some pages on waterways of Ulster and thereabouts. John Ditchfield has very kindly explained several aspects of the machinery shown; I have inserted his explanations into the text on these pages:

I am very grateful to John for taking so much trouble and for sharing his expertise with me and with all who read these pages.

Water levels

Meelick Weir today

Meelick Weir today

Almost level.