Safety work on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct after tragedy could take over a year

By Sue Austin | Chirk | News | Published: | Last Updated:

It could be over a year before work can start on new safety measures on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Teenager Kristopher McDowell, from Cefn Mawr, fell to his death from the aqueduct on the Llangollen canal, part of the World Heritage Site.

The 18-year-old had squeezed through a gap to the outside of the railings on the towpath when one of them gave way.

The tragedy happened three years ago. In March, an inquest jury recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

Kristopher McDowell, sister Hanna and niece Freya

After the jury's decision John Gittins, coroner for North Wales East and Central, raised concerns about the railings.

He said that the 195mm spacing between the railings on the parapet was too wide and did not meet current industry standards of 110mm and added signage at the aqueduct was not adequate to mitigate the dangers.

Now the Canal and River Trust, which is responsible for the management of structures along the Llangollen canal, has responded to Mr Gittins' concerns.

Julia Charman, the trust's chief operations officer, has said that the safety of visitors to the site was paramount.


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“Our thoughts are still very much with the family and friends of Kristopher McDowell following his tragic death," she said.

"Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is Grade I Listed, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a World Heritage Site visited by thousands of people each year and we are committed to ensuring the public and local community can safely enjoy this popular heritage destination."


The trust has stressed that because the structure is part of the world heritage site, there would have to be discussions with UNESCO on how and changes would affect the designation as its preservation in its 200-year-old state had been a major factor in it achieving heritage status.

"Whilst the independent experts at the inquest concluded that our inspection and maintenance of the heritage structure are appropriate, and that the coroner noted that the aqueduct is safe for normal use, we are looking to see if there's more we can do to improve safety further, including identifying any options to reduce the width of the original 200-year old railings across the aqueduct," the trust said.

"This is likely to see a public consultation to guide any design, which will then need to be consented by CADW and discussed with UNESCO.”

The aqueduct was built by Thomas Telford as he constructed the Llangollen canal to get goods from Shropshire to the ports near Liverpool. But despite the success of the engineer's work to create both the Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts and the dark tunnel in Chirk, the long-term goal was thwarted by the hills above Llangollen.

Sue Austin

By Sue Austin
Chief Reporter

Chief reporter of the Oswestry/Mid Wales office. Keen to hear your news.

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