Göta Canal 2.0 meets the future

For the last 200 years, the Göta Canal has linked Sweden’s East and West coast. Now a comprehensive renovation programme has begun to equip the canal for the future.

It’s time to welcome Göta Canal 2.0.

Göta Canal is made up of a man-made canal, locks, towpaths, walls and embankments. Since opening in 1832, the canal has served as both an important transport route and a restful holiday paradise. Naturally, over the years the structure has aged and been subject to wear and tear – and now it is to receive some well-earned restoration.
“We will start by reviewing safety along the entire stretch of the canal,” says Göta Canal Company Managing Director Anders Donlau. “Göta Canal has lasted well for 200 years, so we have nothing to complain about, but now it is time to pick up the baton and begin a renovation programme.”
It is estimated that the entire project to create Göta Canal 2.0 will take five years and cost SEK 500 million. In 2015 the government allocated funding of SEK 100 million for Phase 1 of the works.

Historic methods
Every year the Göta Canal attracts around three million visitors. To avoid an adverse effect on tourism, the bulk of the works will take place during the six winter months. After safety work is completed, the scheme will concentrate on ensuring the canal is navigable and repairing worn areas.
“As work progresses, we will learn what needs doing and how to do it,” says Anders. “It’s amazing how well the original builders designed the canal. We respect this and will, as far as we can, use historically-correct techniques in our renovation work.”
Alongside the canal run the original towpaths for the horses that pulled the barges. These will be restored to full working order. Locks and quaysides will be renovated and large stretches of the canal will be dredged and embankments repaired. Ditches and dams in the areas surrounding the canal will also be looked at.

National treasure
Göta Canal is one of Sweden’s largest transport infrastructures with 87 kilometres of man-made canal, 7.5 kilometres of quays and jetties, 21 marinas, 58 locks, 48 bridges, 400 buildings and Sweden’s longest avenue with 10,000 trees. Maintaining and renovating this national treasure is a significant challenge.
In order to manage the project, work has been divided into several different phases. During Phase 1, which has already started, the lock in Söderköping will be repaired and the safety of the dams alongside the canal will be secured with the help of the automation of one lock and the rebuilding of mitre gates. Drainage of surrounding areas and work to prevent erosion of the canal banks will also be part of Phase 1.
All works will be carefully documented for future generations.

Leaning lock
The lock in Söderköping presents a real challenge to modern canal builders. In contrast to other locks that stand on solid bedrock, the Söderköping lock is situated on looser ground and clay. Over time the entire construction has started to lean. There is also significant leakage around and under the lock, meaning it is high time for thorough repair work.
Traditional building materials and methods will be used in conjunction with modern techniques. Lock bases were originally lined with timber sealed with felted cowhair. A previous renovation for which concrete was used has started to leak and now it is once again time to build a jointed wooden base designed to hold the lock together for decades to come.

Text: Sofia Barreng