Edinburgh-Glasgow line closed for two months after canal breaches its banks, severely damaging railway

Water pours through the breach in the Union Canal's bank and heads downhill towards to railway.

When Scotland’s Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal, which runs between Falkirk and Edinburgh, breached its bank at Muiravonside on the morning of Wednesday 12 August, thousands of gallons of water poured onto the surrounding area, much of which found its way downhill onto the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line near Polmont.

Once the flood water subsided from the tracks, engineers had the opportunity to inspect the 300-metre section of track that was damaged when torrents of water cascaded onto it.

Damage caused to the Edinburgh-Glasgow line by the floodwater from the Union Canal.

While the track at that point doesn’t look too bad, the water then cascaded down the trackbed until it reached a low point, whereupon it broke out into the surrounding countryside, washing away sections of track and undermining embankments. The power of the water also undermined and washed away several overhead electrification masts, damaged others and left dozens of uprooted trees strewn across the tracks.

Initial assessments are indicating that the damage is so extensive that it could take two months to reinstate the line, though engineers will continue to investigate the extent of the damage before confirming a final estimate for restoring service.

Aerial view of the damage to the main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The canal water has also contaminated more than a kilometre of track and ballast which will need to be replaced.

Kevin McClelland, Network Rail.

Kevin McClelland, Network Rail route delivery director, said: “We are working with our asset engineers and specialist contractors to assess the scale and extent of the damage and what we will need to do to safely reinstate the railway.

“It is remarkable to see the destructive power of the flowing water and the extent of the flooding and the scale of the damage is something I have never witnessed before on the railway.  We are grateful to our colleagues at Scottish Canals for their prompt response in dealing with this unprecedented incident.

“We are working as quickly as possible to complete these repairs and to get passengers back onto the railway.”


Scottish Canals video of the Union Canal breach as it happened. 12 August 2020.
Richard Millar, director of infrastructure for Scottish Canals, describes the Union Canal breach on 12 August 2020.
Scotland’s Railway report on the damage caused to the Edinburgh-Glasgow line by the Union Canal breach, 12 August 2020.

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