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The canals are indeed lovely, but not remotely practical for shipping large amounts. The locks on "narrow" canals allow a maximum 20 metre by 2 metre (ie about 30 tonnes) while the "broad" canals allow double the width and capacity.

They were made for horse drawn barges of course and you'd need a lot of horses for (say) Rhine style  barges of 1000 tonnes plus which shift a LOT of bulk goods particularly fuel.

That's not to say I don't advocate a canal style solution. I do.


Grand Contour Canal

 concept (denominated in white with red borders) is an interesting one

More recently, one of the most remarkable canal schemes ever was proposed as recently as WW2.  J.F. Pownall observed that there was a natural 'contour' down the spine of England, around the 300ft level.

In 1940 he put forward the idea that this could be used as a large (by British standards) ship canal. Pownall's Grand Contour Canal would have taken 300-ton continental-size barges from Teeside to Lancashire, Gloucester, London and Southampton, with no locks and just a boat lift at a few stopping points.

Such a concept could serve to move water from where it mainly falls (the North West) to where it's mainly needed (South and South East), and also as a transport artery for decent size barges connecting to the main navigable rivers.

Moreover, such a scheme could be "self funding" - indeed profitable - if the land within (say) 1000 metres of it were used for (say) eco development using a non-toxic development model.

ie the increased land rental values along the route would not all go to private landlords and developers but would be used to pay the cost of building and operation.

Any excess spoil (particularly rock)  could be used to build tidal lagoons on suitable West coast sites, and also a new Thames Barrage downstream of the existing one, with lots of power capacity.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 3rd, 2008 at 11:45:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it stands to reason that the 19th century canal network would not have the capacity to feed 21st century London, though I wonder if anyone has done the network flow analysis? Thanks for the pointer to the mega canal project: sounds like a mega project that in fact makes sense. Which probably explains why it will never happen. Much better to build more airports and highways!
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun May 4th, 2008 at 03:18:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This one sent me off on a short google meander that came to tub-boats canals. Tub-boats were small unmanned 'containers' that could be more easily handled at lifts or inclines.

The idea then came to me of standardised waterproof containers that could be joined together into longer 'barges', with a single motion and steering unit that could be attached front or back. The containers would be standardised also to suit the trucks that would be needed to transport goods from canalheads and stations.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun May 4th, 2008 at 03:57:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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