Underwater robot backed to ‘revolutionise’ reservoir maintenance

A new underwater robot could “revolutionise” future reservoir maintenance.

Known as Valiant, the robot has been trialled by the Canal & River Trust on Carr Mill Reservoir near St Helens in Merseyside.

The tracked remote-operated vehicle has allowed Canal & River Trust engineers and contractor Kier to carry out importance maintenance tasks without the need to drain the reservoir. This means existing water levels can be retained for boating and fishing, as well as save hundreds of thousands of pounds in fish rescue fees.

Canal & River Trust project designer Tim Brownrigg emphasised the potential of the technology.

“The Valiant was developed in collaboration with diving contractor Edwards Diving Services and is set to revolutionise how we manage underwater reservoir maintenance, particularly difficult jobs like replacing old, worn-out valves in locations where it is too dangerous to send divers," he said.

“The trust cares for 72 reservoirs across its 3,200km canal network so the potential reduction in disruption for local residents, water sport enthusiasts and wildlife is immense and of course, cost savings are likely to be significant."

Canal & River Trust project manager Curtis Udogu added that it has been "fantastic" to keep the reservoir in water for the entire upgrade project.

He added: "Our top priority is always to keep local residents and businesses safe, so from time to time we do need to upgrade equipment, and repair and replace the infrastructure. We know people feel healthier and happier when they’re by water, so this ability to keep reservoirs in water during major maintenance projects will pay dividends in the future for everyone.”

The Canal & River Trust embarked on the major repair project to upgrade the reservoir in the summer of 2020 and will complete the work this month.

The £2M project has been delivered in two phases.

The first upgrade was carried out at the outfall tunnel by the railway viaduct and involved the removal of an asbestos concrete pipe and installation of a new gauging weir, security grill, safety railings, ladders and steps.

Further substantial work involved cleaning out the stilling basin, undertaking repairs and resealing construction joints on the spillway, plus other safety and access enhancements.

The second phase involved the dam embankment itself. Extensive repairs were carried out to the old spillway and its bridge strengthened to carry modern traffic loads. The main work was to replace the valves located at the base of the valve shaft, with the two original valves dating back to the 1860s in poor condition. These were replaced with four new ones, complete with supporting mechanisms.

Work also included a range of improvements and repairs to increase the resilience of the crest road and repairs to the valve hut building, including a new roof.

Visitors will now be able to admire the ingenuity of Victorian canal-builders close up, as one of the original valves has been preserved as a monument to the enterprising engineers who built the reservoir.

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