The Environment Agency has announced plans to close several Thames locks during the winter to carry out improvement works

Eight locks along the non-tidal River Thames are set to close later this year ahead of £1m improvement works being carried out by the Environment Agency.

The seven-figure investment will ensure the locks and associated structures remain in good working order for years to come, enabling boaters to carry on cruising throughout the 135 miles of navigable waterway from Cricklade in Wiltshire, near the river’s source, to Teddington in Middlesex where the river becomes tidal.

Work will start in November and continue through to March next year, avoiding the peak boating months to minimise disruption to river users.

Most locks will be closed to boating throughout this period as lock chambers will need to be drained of water or lock gates completely removed for work to be carried out.

Environment Agency waterways engineer Barrie Douglass explained: “Any work at a lock site, even a relatively minor repair, can be a complex undertaking. When we need to renovate a lock chamber for example, we have to install a coffer dam around it using sheet piling, then brace the chamber to maintain its structural integrity before pumping the water out so we can work in dry conditions.

“When gates have to be removed, we need to get a mobile crane with a boom of around 80 feet onto site, to safely lift out the gates, each of which weighs several tonnes.

“And before any of this happens, our in-house carpenters will have been hard at work fabricating new rubbing timbers, gate frames and other components out of solid lumps of sustainable tropical hardwood.”

The Environment Agency cares for over 1000 individual navigation ‘assets’ in total on the Thames, with an estimated combined value of some £425 million. These include major structures like locks, lock houses, access roads and bridges. Many are significant heritage features. Barrie continued:

“We’re proud to be the custodians of the navigation infrastructure on the non-tidal Thames, and we take the responsibility that comes with it very seriously.

“Maintaining critical navigation assets in safe working order is our number one priority. It has to be, because if we allow them to fall into disrepair and become unfit for use, then boating on the Thames as we’ve known it for the last hundred years or so would just not be possible.

“The income we get from boater’s registration fees isn’t enough to cover the cost of all the work we need to do each year, however. Fortunately, we receive a significant top-up from Government, which we invest very carefully to ensure maximum value-for-money for the taxpayer.”

The current programme of work, which may be subject to change, is:

St John’s Lock, Oxfordshire 2 November 2015 to 4 March 2016. Re-sheeting the head and repairing the tail lock gates
Godstow Lock, Oxfordshire 2 November 2015 to 4 March 2016. Re-sheeting the lock gates
Culham Lock, Oxfordshire 2 November 2015 to 4 March 2016. Refurbishing the lock chamber
Day’s Lock, Oxfordshire 4 January 2016 to 26 February 2016. Minor repairs to the lock chamber
Temple Lock, Buckinghamshire 2 November 2015 to 26 February 2016. Refurbishing the lock chamber
Cookham Lock, Berkshire 2 November 2015 to 18 December 2015. Replacing lock gate control system
Boulters Lock, Berkshire 2 November 2015 to 18 December 2015. Re-sheeting the tail lock gates
Penton Hook Lock, Middlesex 11 January 2016 to 4 March 2016. Repairing the tail lock gates pintle