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  1. ITV Report

Birmingham marks a new era for the waterways

Ribbon being cut over a canal in Birmingham to mark the handover to the Canal & River Trust Photo: ITV Central

A ribbon was cut over a canal in Birmingham this morning to mark the start of a new era for England's waterways.

A charitable trust has taken over the running of the country's canals and rivers from the Government. British Waterways, which had been responsible, has now no longer exists.

Canals were Britain’s first transport system, built in the early 1800’s by wealthyentrepreneurs keen to reap huge profits from their freight carrying potential.

Theyunderpinned the success of Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

However, the construction of the railway network, followed later by the motorway system, sounded the death knell for large-scale commercial freight on the waterways.

Since then the management of the canal and river network has changed hands a number of times.

Archive pictures of boats using the Grand Union Canal to carry freight Credit: ITV Central
  • In 1948, Britain's inland waterways were brought under public ownership and by the 1960’s many had been abandoned or even filled in.
  • In 1962, the government created the British Waterways Board to manage the majority of the nation’s waterway network.
  • By the mid-1990s, the case was successfully being made for a canal renaissance based on recreation.
  • By 2011, British Waterways’ network was a thriving leisure resource visited by more than 13 million people every year and home to 35,000 boats.

The Canal & River Trust will care for 2,000 miles of Britain’s canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks.

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