Restoration projects are no easy task, and the restoration of Standedge tunnel was no exception. Many parts of the tunnel were filled with layers of silt, with some areas reaching in excess of 6 feet deep. Different sections of the roof had also collapsed, with others on the verge of collapse. Making things more difficult is the fact that area of the tunnel are only 7-feet wide. This made it difficult to get machinery into the right locations. Additionally, before the restoration of roof and walls could commence, it took a good amount of time to actually remove all of the build-up of silt.
Boats have been allowed to access the tunnel since March 30th, 2009. These boays have been allowed to operate under their own power, where in past years, they were towed through by an electric tug system. Passage times take place 3 times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In order to maintain safety, only 3 boats are allowed to pass through per day. This prevents people from becoming affected by the diesel fumes that they emit. It also prevents peeople from becoming sick, and it makes the entire experience much more enjoyable for everyone.
A chaperone accompanies each boat that passes through it. The chaperone is a qualified tunnel pilot who can offer advice while supervising the safe passage. Additionally, the chaperone is able to take command of a vessel and steer it through some of the more tricky sections of the tunnel. Any boaters who are interested in gaining access to the tunnel should call 24 hours in advance. Limited access to the tunnel makes it difficult to book a trip. Boat captains who never show up will be charged a fee.
Once the tunnel was restored it became popular for boaters to try to gain access to it. During the first 8 years, however, many were left disappointed because they were not able to go through the tunnel using their own power. Instead, they had to rely on an electric tug. Over the years and months, British Waterways has conducted tests to see if it can be safely navigated under a person's own boat power. These trials are designed to ensure that everyone who passes remains safe. The safety of the public is a chief concern.
Since April 2009, boaters have been able to pilot their own boats through the tunnel. The 3 boats per day are told to set off roughly 45 minutes apart from one another. This allows fumes to dissipate so that they are not breathed in by boaters who travel behind the others. Traveling through the tunnel is a truly unique experience.