THE body responsible for Northwich’s waterways has ruled out subsidence or adverse ground conditions as the cause for major disruption in Rudheath.

The navigation and towpath between bridges 184 and 185 of the Trent and Mersey Canal have been closed over the past month after a hole appeared in the towpath.

Campaign group Mid Cheshire Against HS2 had raised alarm over the issue, amid concerns that unstable ground conditions could have caused the problem, which is in an area set to be hit by the high-speed railway between Crewe and Manchester.

But following investigations, Canal and River Trust has confirmed this is not the case – and that the cause of the disruption is an ageing timber box culvert which has decayed over time.

A spokesman for the trust said: “We are currently carrying out emergency repairs to a section of the Trent and Mersey Canal in Rudheath between bridges 184 and 185.

“A hole appeared in the towpath in early November and when we drained the canal, we discovered that an old timber box culvert had collapsed.

“This timber culvert, carrying highway surface drainage water under the canal and nearby Griffiths Road, is many decades old and is typical of culverts constructed under the canal in this area.

“Maintaining a 200-year-old canal network is a constant challenge and occasionally there are problems – in this case rotten wood.”

The trust is working with Cheshire West and Chester Council, gas distributors Cadent and landowners to resolve the issue, and it hopes to have both the canal and towpath open for boaters and walkers in time for Christmas.

“Our contractors Kier are working seven days a week to excavate about 15metres of the decayed wooden box culvert from beneath the canal bed and replace it with a new concrete-surrounded pipe,” the spokesman added.

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While ground conditions are not the cause of the issue, Mid Cheshire Against HS2 has also raised concerns about building the high-speed railway so close to the Trent and Mersey Canal – which was first used in 1777.

In a statement, the group said: “It is likely that high-speed trains travelling so close to historical infrastructure such as the Trent and Mersey Canal, which was built 60 years before Queen Victoria came to the throne, will have a detrimental effect – to the point where the collapses that we have witnessed recently will become even more common.”