Boats Using Standedge Tunnel

Boats at Diggle portal
Boats wait at Diggle portal for passage through Standedge Tunnel.

It had been an ambition of many boaters to take their boats through Standedge Tunnel once it was restored. Many were disappointed in the first 8 years not able to do so under their own power as boats were towed through by electric tugs.

However, over many months, British Waterways have carried out a number of trials to determine how boats could pass through under their own power without safety concerns over excessive diesel fumes and other potential problems.

The result is that, from April 2009, boaters have been able to steer their own boats through the tunnel, accompanied by a British Waterways staff member who will act as "chaperone" and offer advice on tricky sections of the tunnel. Boats set off at 45 minute intervals to allow diesel fumes from the previous boat to thin out sufficiently. More details are on this page.

emerging at Diggle - Photo: Peter Burnet
Boat emerging at Diggle under its own power. Photo: Peter Burnet.

Passage through the tunnel must be booked at least 3 day in advance (and preferably more) by telephoning 01782 785703 or 01484 844298. Boats are gauged before entering the tunnel and those over 6' 10" wide, over 70ft long, 6' 2" above water and 3ft below water are not allowed into the tunnel. BW's profile diagram can be seen here.

For the latest information about times and dates of operation and for BW's tunnel guidelines and navigation notes please see visit British Waterways Standedge website.

emerging at Tunnel End - Photo: Peter Burnet
Boat emerging at Tunnel End. Rubber sheeting is used to help protect the cabin corners and additional lighting is provided. Photo: Peter Burnet.

Below are some photographs of the system that was in use until 2008. Boats were towed through in a convoy of up to four full length narrowboats by an electric tug. The convoy included a passenger module for the boat crews and foot passengers.

Boats at Diggle portal
A passenger module pushed by a small electric tug led a convoy of boats out of the Diggle portal.
boat separator
Boats were attached to each other during the tunnel passage by these specially designed boat separators.
first boats through the tunnel
The first boats through the tunnel emerging from the Marsden portal at Tunnel End in May 2001.

On special occasions British Waterways has allowed boats to be legged through the tunnel, re-enacting the traditional method that had been used for over a hundred years.

legging through the tunnel
Legging through Standedge Tunnel in May 2006.
legging through the tunnel
The last few steps before the boat emerges at Tunnel End.