MAJOR improvements along the Oxford Canal have been completed ahead of schedule this week.

A £400,000 project by the Canal & River Trust saw more than 400 metres of the canal bank rebuilt from above Elizabeth Jennings Way north to near St Edwards School in Summertown.

The Trust says it installed metal piles to reinforce the river bank. Eco-friendly coir rolls were then placed on top and silt from the canal bed was used to back-fill any gaps.

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More than 40 wooden platforms were also fitted, which will help boaters to get on and off their boats safely.

The banking is intended to create new habitat for species such as water voles.

Work began in January as part of a programme of improvements to the Oxford Canal, which has also recently seen a significant graffiti clearance carried out by the Trust and volunteers.

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Canal & River Trust senior project manager Adrian Honeybill said: “The project has three major benefits: reinforcing the stability of the canal; improving access from the towpath to people’s boats; and creating new habitat for endangered wildlife. It’s been a significant investment, but that is testament to the importance and the potential of the Oxford Canal.

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“As a charity we know that when we are able to improve our canals, they can be better enjoyed and bring a range of economic, environmental and health benefits to communities.”

Oxford City Council Waterways Coordinator Tim Wiseman welcomed the improvements, adding: “The completion of the bank works is a much-needed improvement. "For many years, these moorings have supported a diverse community of people who contribute to the city, living and working here.

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"The bank works ensure that their moorings are safe and accessibility is improved, together with wider benefits to the environmental biodiversity value of the canal area.”

The Oxford Canal is more than 200 years old and runs for more than 70 miles, beginning at Hythe Bridge Street in the city centre.

Ongoing improvements are part of a wider project with Oxford City Council and other partners.