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Bowling Harbour’s viaduct swing bridge was originally constructed in 1896 to carry the Caledonian and Dunbartonshire Railway over the Forth & Clyde Canal. Following the closure of the Forth and Clyde Canal in 1963 and the Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire Railway in 1964 the historically industrial area of Bowling Harbour fell into disrepair, losing its vibrant, bustling industry. Identified in the early 2010s as a key regeneration opportunity by West Dunbartonshire Council, Scottish Canals, the custodian of the canal assets, worked with the local community and local authority to develop an award-winning masterplan for regeneration in the area.
Having been in a state of disuse for many years, the railway bridge, arches and surrounding areas had fallen into disrepair with corrosion, leaks and many structural challenges. Prior to works commencing, the viaduct and structures were derelict and fenced off. Vegetation had taken hold and the viaduct was impassable. With the scale of the project and location at the centre of the Bowling community, the project plan and associated works had to be sensitively managed and Scottish Canals worked closely with West Dunbartonshire Council to engage the local community from the very beginning and throughout the entire process.
The vision for the Bowling Harbour regeneration masterplan was created using the Charrette process of community engagement – a design led process that enables wide participation and shared development.
A key feature of the regeneration masterplan was the new vision for the category B Listed Bowling viaduct structure – transforming the historic railway line into a new linear park and active travel connection, and the conversion of former railway arches into new business space. To begin to bring the masterplan vision to life, a programme of enabling improvement measures were selected to start to make tangible changes on the ground and set the conditions for future regeneration phases.
Comprehensive works programmes involved the clearance of years of decay, dereliction and accumulated debris and vegetation matter revealing the arch structures underneath. Waterproofing systems, as well as new business frontages were inserted, as well as the sensitive repair of the original brickwork where its integrity was more substantial. This involved careful attention to the original built fabric, retaining brick features and façade features – carefully inserting new material to restore these back to their original form. The mass concrete viaduct structure has presented some challenges in terms of water retention and leaking. A contemporary waterproofing solution has been installed which involved a dimpled membrane system fitted between the existing concrete fascia and the new wall fascia which allows the water to travel down through the dimples to be collected at a bottom floor drain and carried out to the external drainage network.
In 2017, following the refurbishment of the viaduct arches and the creation of commercial units funding was received to commence work on the transformation of the derelict railway line into a new active travel connection and linear park. Inspired by New York’s Highline, the Bowline, opened to the public in Autumn 2021 and provides uninterrupted off-road access towards Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, along the National Cycle Network route.
Sustainability has been a key component of all material specification, consideration and detailing and Mackenzie Construction has a strong track record in utilising local supply chains. The project has introduced new native planting and landscaping across the site and includes the planting of over 1000 new native trees.
During this project, Mackenzie Construction also trialled its new Smart Surface solution, which uses an innovative binding solution for soil stabilisation of existing ground conditions to create or repair paths, roads, and hard standings. This brings a range of cost, efficiency and, importantly, carbon-saving benefits, as it removes the need for the importation of aggregates and off-site disposal of waste and contributes to the circular economy.
As well as the future regeneration and economic benefits the project will bring Mackenzie Construction, Scottish Canals, and its partners have been committed to strong community engagement and strong partnership relations throughout the duration of works. In 2017, Scottish Canals ran West Dunbartonshire’s first ever Canal College at Bowling Harbour – a 14-week programme run in conjunction with Mackenzie Construction to provide skills and employability training for local young people experiencing barriers to employment. One of the graduates went on to support the Bowling project throughout and gained valuable work experience with Mackenzie Construction.
The project gained industry recognition at the 2021 Scottish Civil Engineering Awards, taking home the Community Award for making a significant contribution to the local area.