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Falkirk Wheel


One of two Scottish projects that makes our list is the Falkirk Wheel (below, left). This is an advertisement for the best that civil engineering has to offer. Built to join the Union and Forth & Clyde canals to provide a boat link across Scotland, the wheel was designed to lift canal boats the 35 m difference in height between the two.

Client British Waterways tore up the rule book to get the best out of its contractor team, led by a Morrison/Bachy Soletanche joint venture. Instead of sticking with tired tender designs for a Ferris wheel-style scheme, the whole team was asked to fire up its imagination and come up with a more inspirational solution. The result is the world's first rotating boat lift, a space-age structure which takes the canal age into the 21st century.

A combined effort from client, contractors, architect RMJM, engineers Arup, Tony Gee & Partners and Bennett Associates and specialist steel firm Butterley all contributed to the success.

The wheel was fabricated using a bolted rather than welded system to overcome the massive stress changes in the structure during its rotation. Most of it was formed in pieces in Butterley's Derbyshire factory. This giant Meccano set was then transported to Falkirk, where accurate planning meant it was all assembled with the minimum of fuss. It has since become one of Scotland's principal tourist attractions.