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New lock provides sustainable legacy for London

The first barge through the new lock
 The first barge through the new lock
(click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of British Waterways Board

The first flotilla of boats travelled through Three Mills Lock, the first new lock to be built in London in over 20 years, on World Environment Day (Friday 5 June 2009).

The new lock at Prescott Channel, Bromley-by-Bow, will open up the Bow Back Rivers, a network of waterways in and around the Olympic Park for the first time in decades, creating a green gateway for freight barges to enter the Olympic construction zone.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "We want the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be the greenest games ever. Funding the Three Mills Lock will not only take many lorries off local roads, reducing thousands of tonnes of CO2 and local congestion, it will also provide a green freight route for the redevelopment of East London, and open up the waterways for boaters, walkers, and cyclists."

Water transport is greener, cleaner and more sustainable than road haulage. The state-of-the-art lock will provide access to the area for 350 tonne barges, taking hundreds of lorry journeys away from local roads, saving thousands of tonnes of CO2 and creating a platform for a new 'Water City' to emerge in the East of London.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "The revitalisation of this network of canals after decades of decline heralds a new age of water transport in the capital. By shifting noisy, dusty and heavily polluting freight vehicles from busy roads onto water, we can free up traffic and drastically improve the quality of our environment.

"This vital investment means a steady flow of boats will soon be carrying a substantial proportion of the materials needed to create the Olympic Park that would otherwise have travelled by road, sealing a legacy beyond the duration of the Games themselves."

A tug and barge, flanked by a flotilla of colourful narrowboats, locked in and out of the new structure, putting the lock gates through their paces ahead of planned freight deliveries to the Olympic Park that are scheduled to take place later this month. In the longer term the works will allow new opportunities for leisure boats, water taxis, trip boats and floating restaurants, creating a major boating destination in the area.

Tony Hales, chairman of British Waterways said: "As guardians of the UK's canals and rivers I am thrilled to see Three Mills Lock open today, and show everyone how the waterways can play an integral role in making the London 2012 Olympic Games the most sustainable yet. Rejuvenating the waterways of East London has been a long term goal for British Waterways, and the Olympics provided a catalyst to kick-start this process.

"The lock is just the beginning though, British Waterways is working with its partners to ensure that the maximum benefit can be delivered using these waterways, with everything from water taxis, waste removal by water and new marinas planned for the future."

Three Mills Lock and Water Control Structure is funded by British Waterways, the Department for Transport, London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Olympic Delivery Authority, London Development Agency, and Transport for London. The project comprises twin water control gates, a 62m x 8m tidal lock, footbridge, lock control building, fish pass and fixed weir.

Construction of the lock has been managed by British Waterways and undertaken by design and build contractors VolkerStevin Ltd, with a supporting team including Tony Gee & Partners LLP, Bennett Associates, Clague Architects and Weetwood Environmental Engineering. Works began in March 2007 ensuring that the lock was accessible for barge traffic during the peak Olympic construction period.

Notes to editors:

  • The name, Three Mills Lock, recognises the importance of this area of East London, which is rich in industrial heritage that has historically centred on the waterways that surround the area.
  • Prescott Channel takes its name from a past Chairman of the Lee Conservancy Board, which carried out the last major works to the waterways in the 1930s.
  • British Waterways cares for and manages 100 miles of canals and rivers and 110 acres of docks in London. As a not-for-dividend public corporation it works with a broad range of public, private and voluntary sector partners to unlock the potential of the inland waterways for the benefit of the millions who visit and care for them. For more information visit the website (opens in a new window). 
  • Civil engineering and building contractor, VolkerStevin Ltd., is a group company of VolkerWessels, one of the largest construction groups in Europe. Founded in 1934, VolkerStevin has a turnover of £75m and employs more than 400 people throughout the UK. Built on experience and a large professional in-house team, VolkerStevin provides project solutions across a wide variety of sectors including civil engineering, land remediation and regeneration, the water infrastructure and marine sectors and commercial and industrial property building. The company has built a reputation in the industry for providing total service solutions at the early stages of projects coupled with its award winning quality and environmental policies. For more information about VolkerStevin see the website (opens in a new window).