The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust trip boat Dragonfly has been fitted with a lift enabling wheelchair access, thanks to the support of funders and the skills of the apprentices at MINI Plant Swindon.
For the past two years Dragonfly has been operating successfully on the restored stretch of canal at Kingshill Swindon; last year alone she provided well over a thousand passengers with a delightful experience of the canal. However disabled people in wheelchairs could not use this facility.
Funds to purchase the lift were raised from three charities – Bruce Wake Charitable Trust, The Herbert & Peter Blagrave Charitable Trust, The Medlock Charitable Trust – with the assistance of The Community Foundation of Wiltshire & Swindon. However the installation would have been a considerable amount in its own right, at least doubling the overall cost.
Vicki Cornish was the first person to try out the new boat lift at the launch of the converted Dragonfly on Thursday 11 April. She is pictured with MINI Plant Swindon Apprentices below. Photo: Richard Wintle www.calyxpix.com
But help was at hand through a group of BMW apprentices training at MINI Plant Swindon. Dragonfly was taken to the tool room at the plant and the apprentices worked together to install the lift as one of their training projects. Dragonfly is back in the water at KIngshill, and wheelchair users can now enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the canal.
Acting Chairman of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, Kath Hatton, said: “The Trust is most grateful to MINI Plant Swindon for their generous support in fitting the wheelchair lift. The apprentices have done a brilliant job; the installation of the lift will enable us to extend the boat trips to wheelchair users, something we have wanted to do right from the start of our plans to operate the boat.
"The Trust acknowledges the generosity of the three charities which helped with funding. We are also very grateful to the lift manufacturers PLS Ltd who put a lot of thought into the design of the custom-made installation, and to Ellis Crane Hire Ltd, who generously helped with craneage of Dragonfly out of and back into the water.”
Chris Mark, General Manager of MINI Pant Swindon, said: “We are delighted to have been able to help the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust in extending the boat trips to wheelchair users.”
Mike Legg, the project engineer at MINI Plant Swindon – added: “This was a really interesting project for our apprentices, requiring them to design the installation from scratch, work out the way to do the job, and see it through to completion of a safe and working lift. They have enjoyed the whole thing from start to finish, and are very pleased to have been able to lend support to a project that is extending a wonderful amenity to a wider community.”
Declan Kearns one of the apprentices most involved, believes taking on the unusual project made him and his colleagues to think differently about solving problems. “This project was really good. It gave us experience of something completely different. We had to work it out from first principles, and then see it through. We are looking forward to seeing Dragonfly in operation with wheelchair users taking advantage of something that we have helped with.”
Mike Lang, who coordinated the project on behalf of the Trust, said: "It was wonderful to work with the apprentices and to have all the facilities and equipment on hand to enable the installation – a task which was accomplished whilst at the same time as continuing with their training.
"We were pleased that at the same time MINI Plant Swindon allowed us to work on the boat whilst it was out of the water. We arranged for the propeller, propeller shaft and stern gland to be replaced whilst volunteers from the boat team and the Swindon work party cleaned and reblacked the hull."
Find out about trips on Dragonfly