x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Lift may carry boats over Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai canal plan

Heat may be a problem for the steel in Dubai's waterway, even though the Scottish engineering masterpiece that inspired it is troubled by cold.

The Falkirk wheel in Scotland may be replicated in Dubai. Courtesy Scottish Canals
The Falkirk wheel in Scotland may be replicated in Dubai. Courtesy Scottish Canals

DUBAI // A Dh1.5 billion boat lift set to become a major tourist attraction may need alterations to cope with our blazing summers - even though the biggest problem for the structure that inspired it is ice.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, ordered the immediate implementation of the Business Bay canal project last December.

The 2.8-kilometre elevated waterway will stretch from Business Bay to the shore at Jumeirah, passing over the Metro Red Line, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Safa Park and Al Wasl Road.

Boats will pass along the canal above the traffic on the emirate's busiest motorway. But the designers faced the problem of raising and lowering the vessels to and from the waterway.

A video on Sheikh Mohammed's website suggests they found the answer in the 35-metre-tall Falkirk Wheel, a unique rotating boat lift that connects two canals in Scotland.

It was not clear whether Dubai's 50°C summers would affect the operation of this type of giant steel mechanism.

But a Falkirk Wheel official has said it would be possible to amend the design to avoid problems, even though the original was created for the chillier conditions in Scotland.

"The wheel does have operating temperature limits but it's more the cold that gets it," said Richard Millar, head of enterprise at Scottish Canals, who joined the organisation as an engineer when the wheel was being built.

"We don't know what 40°C or 50°C would do to it. It is designed to deal with the range of temperatures we get here in Scotland - oh to get 50°C. Our problems are much more down at the icy end of things - when the canal freezes then we have problems with the wheel.

"It's a classical mechanical engineering question, how the steel expands and how the heat affects the joints and the oil in the hydraulics. But all of these things can be designed out."

The Falkirk Wheel figures extensively in the video on Sheikh Mohammed's website. There are clips of it in action and its distinctive shape can be seen in photos on a poster outlining the plans under a headline reading, "Technology to connect".

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation and chief executive of Emirates Group, can be seen studying the plans with Sheikh Mohammed.

Sheikh Mohammed has said he would like to see the project completed within two years.

He said it would be a milestone that would add to Dubai's tourism attractions and help to place the UAE at the forefront of tourism regionally and globally.

The Scottish wheel, which stands close to the town of Falkirk, has become one of the country's top tourist attractions since it opened in 2002, with up to 500,000 visitors a year.

It connects the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal and enables boats to travel across the country between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The canals were formerly linked by a series of locks, but these were dismantled after the canal network fell into disuse.

"It's amazing that what was done here 10 or 12 years ago to save the Scottish canals from being lost to the nation is now inspiring a brand new canal in Dubai," said Mr Millar. "It's brilliant and it just shows how the design of the Falkirk Wheel has caught people's imaginations."

The Roads and Transport Authority, the body responsible for building the canal, declined to comment.