'The Wheel', Falkirk

Falkirk WheelLed by British Waterways, this scheme combined the international experience of joint-venture contractor Morrison-Bachy-Soletanche with leading specialists from Ove Arup Consultants, Butterley Engineering and Scotland-based architects RMJM.

In addition to the Wheel, the site included the construction of a new section of canal, two aqueducts, three locks, a tunnel, a railway bridge and a canal basin. Construction work began in summer 2000 and was completed in December 2001.

Wheel facts and figures

  • The only structure of its kind in the world, the Falkirk Wheel is 115 feet (35 metres) high – the equivalent height of eight double decker buses.
  • The Wheel can lift loads of 600 tonnes (300 tonnes at each end) – the approximate weight of 100 adult African elephants.
  • The Wheel is able to carry eight or more boats at a time and a single trip takes about 15 minutes.
  • The Wheel stands in a 330 feet wide circular basin with moorings for more than 20 boats.
  • The total cost of the Wheel "interchange" is approximately £17 million (includes aqueduct, new canal link, basin and associated works).
  • The project involved over 500 construction staff.
  • The Wheel site takes up 110 acres (45 hectares), the bulk of which includes an abandoned open-cast mine. The project involved major landscaping and the removal of 300,000 tonnes of soil.
  • Construction materials include 7,000 cubic metres of concrete, 1,500 tonnes of reinforced steel, 1,200 tonnes of prefabricated steel and 35,000 square metres of canal lining.
  • The Wheel is designed to last for at least the next 120 years.
  • The first wheel-based boat lift was proposed by a German engineer at the beginning of the century, though it was never built.
  • The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first rotating boat lift and the first boat lift to be built in Britain since Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire (1875).