Standedge Tunnel

Since March 30th 2009, boats have been allowed to pass through Standedge Tunnel under their own power. (Previous to that they were towed through in convoy by an electric tug.)

Passage will take place on three days a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Three boats will be allowed into the tunnel each day, at 45 minute intervals to prevent boaters being affected by the diesel fumes of other boats.

Each boat will carry a British Waterways "chaperone", a qualified tunnel pilot who will supervise the passage and offer advice. The pilot would be able to steer the boat through tricky sections if the boater wished but the boater may steer the boat the whole way if preferred.

Boaters wishing to use the tunnel are asked to book a passage at least 3 days in advance by phoning 01782 785703 or 01484 844298. You should phone at least 24 hours in advance to confirm that you are on your way to the tunnel. Because of the limited number of passages available it is advisable to book a slot as far in advance as possible, but you should be aware that BW will charge you £50 if you don't show up (unless you have phoned to cancel 48 hours or more in advance).

Pets will be allowed to remain on board but must be restrained (i.e. caged or tied) so that there is no possibility of them becoming alarmed and causing a distraction or safety problem.

Boaters will be issued with hard hat and life jacket to be worn at all times in the tunnel by anyone outside on the boat and each boat will be issued with additional lighting for navigation.

Boats will only be allowed into the tunnel if they are within the specified craft dimensions (basically not more than 70 ft length, 6'10" beam, 3' 3" draught - a diagram showing the exact dimensions can be seen here). Fibreglass boats and petrol engined boats are not permitted through the tunnel.

A new and improved communications system, which will allow the BW "chaperones" to stay in constant contact with the office base, is not yet available. Until this is in place, the boat will pause at each adit (cross-passage through to the old railway tunnel) so that the BW pilot can call the base via the phone system, so that the tunnel controller knows where each boat is. A back-up van will be stationed near the middle of the tunnel in order to be able to respond if an emergency arises.

Boaters will be able to work their own way up the locks at Marsden and Diggle. Lock 32e below Marsden will be unlocked at 8.30 am and boaters approaching from the east can make their own way up on the day before they are booked to go through the tunnel, but they must pass through Lock 32e before 3.30 pm.

The Diggle locks will operate in a similar way to previous years. Lock 24w will be unlocked at 8.00 am and boats should make their way up on the day of their tunnel passage, to arrive at Diggle portal by 11.30 am. Boats heading eastwards may have the opportunity of stopping overnight at Marsden or continuing down the Marsden locks, as long as they are through Lock 32e before 4.30 pm (so anyone hoping to do that should try to be the first boat through the tunnel!). This may be varied and you should discuss possible options with the BW staff when you leave the tunnel.

Boats will be allowed (as before) to come up the Marsden flight to stay for a couple of days before going back down, without passing through the tunnel. Booking is not needed, although BW says it would be helpful if boaters wishing to do that let them know of their intention.

Important note: This information was correct on 27th Aug 2010. Please check with BW or visit to see whether any changes have been made since then. Please also check for times and days of operation. On that site you can download BW's Standedge Customer Guidelines and HNC Navigation Notes.