COMMUTERS could soon park up their cars and catch a water bus into Taunton under plans to rebuild a historic canal.

Under the scheme the Great Western Canal, which closed 150 years ago, would be revived and turned into a 21st Century eco-friendly link for commuters and visitors.

A so-called solar-powered 'Park 'n' Glide' shuttle would provide a one-mile link from Silk Mills park and ride car park to French Weir, with the route slightly rejigged from the original.

Robert Hodgson, chairman of the Friends of the Grand Western Canal, said: "The Grand Western Canal, closed in 1868, once connected Silk Mills with French Weir.

"You can still see the old canal bed at the bottom of Frieze Hill estate.

"We'd reuse that section and build a new piece of canal to Silk Mills to allow rapid transfers by electric shuttles.

"Park 'n' Glide would include a vertical lift at Silk Mills similar to those built elsewhere in Somerset in the 1830s.

"Somerset's water-efficient devices were the first commercial boat lifts anywhere in the world and setting the county in its rightful place as an innovator of the canal age is long overdue."

A mile-long stretch of the old canal would also be used to connect up with the West Somerset Railway at Norton Fitzwarren.

Mr Hodgson added: "The combination of sustainable transport, a visitor centre dedicated to the waterways and wetlands of Somerset and a link to the historic West Somerset Railway will create a fantastic day out for residents and visitors alike.

"The scheme brings many other benefits in terms of flood management, healthy living and work environments and opportunities for business development."

Somerset County Gazette:

The Friends of the Grand Western Canal have launched a £35,000 appeal to fund a feasibility study - so far more than £6,000 has been raised.

Mr Hodgson said: "There are still lots of details to fill in.

"We are confident that it's a real winner for everyone in Somerset and need to prove it."

Further details about the study can be viewed here.

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said she supports the proposals.

She added: "The more I considered Park 'n' Glide, the more it offers everyone in Taunton and Somerset.

"It fits well with a number of other local plans that will increase business and well-being in Taunton."

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, also backs the project.

He said: "Canals have an important part to play in flood management.

"As well as the sustainable transport benefits, this scheme could help alleviate flooding in Taunton."