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Victor: What can I say?
Sunday, 11 December 2011 07:30

WHAT can I say indeed. By the close of play after the first day of the narrowboatworld poll, you lot had told messrs Evans, Hales & Co exactly what you think about them running Canal & River Trust—they shouldn't.

And it wasn't as though the poll had been previously announced to get you all prepared—Thomas slipped it in on Friday evening without a word to anyone, but you soon latched on with 1,549 of you voting on its first day, showing 95.2% against that clutch running the new organisation, with just 75, 4.8% in favour.

I think I can say without any fear of contradiction that your choice was based on past performance of those people.  And we all know the benefit to the waterways of that.

But will they do the decent thing, heed the wishes of others, and allow others to take over the running of our waterways, someone we can possibly trust?

Don't hold your breath.


I know I have been flogging the matter of British Waterways calculations of visitors to its waterways, for quite a while, but for which I make no excuse.

For as our Allan Richards clearly points out, it is the measure by which it calculates the popularity of its waterways, so it is essential that the figures are impressive.

For consequently, the higher the number the better it reflects, hence the propensity for a little bit of exaggeration from time to time, and its somewhat suspect methods of obtaining what really is impossible to obtain—the actual number of visitors to its waterways.

The way it's done

We hear of the towpath-side counting machines, purposefully set where there is a great deal of pedestrian movement, usually by a 'rat-run' for workers, shoppers or children using the towpath purely as a short-cut.

In fact there is currently a post on the Forum that tells there has been one in Loughborough for many years, on part of the towpath that is used as a traffic free short-cut to the town centre used by thousands of people totally unconcerned with the canal, that will notch up a few thousand.

Then of course there was that ringing up people to ask if they have visited a waterway during the last two weeks.  Of course we are not told the area concerned, but not likely to be around say the Yorkshire Moors!  And I wonder, was the telephoning done at this time of the year?  I bet  it was undertaken during the school holidays in August.

All very suspect, and with the sole intention of falsifying the statistics.

Just how many?

Just what is the actual number of visitors to the waterways?  Of course no one can possibly know, but we are given plenty of statistics.

If you care to log on to Waterscape you will find the following text:

Britain's canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks are enduringly popular, with around 300 million visits made to British Waterways' 2,200 mile network each year.

So there's 300 millions! British Waterways Chairman Tony Hales told his audience at the opening of the Droitwich Canal that there were 11 millions.  But though British Waterways have admitted visitors have gone down, in a article published in narrowboatworld yesterday, (Saturday) Tony tells us it is now 13 millions!

But don't let's forget British Waterways told a parliamentary commission that it was 3.8 millions.

Take your pick!

Down to realities

Last Tuesday we moored for five hours on the rather popular Sawley Cut.  We saw a single walker, one cyclist and two dog walkers, though one of them stepped on to a boat, making a a total of three visitors.

Admittedly this towpath is very popular during the summer months, but how about the statistics? Are the five rather cold and miserable months taken into account?  When the lady on the telephone asked if people had visited a waterway, you can see why it was most likely in August.

It only remains to once again quote that most famous Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who told Parliament:

"There are three types of lies: Lies. Damn lies. And statistics."

I reckon British Waterways are rather good at the latter, but those that conjure them up should really try to get some kind of consistency. Figures from 3.8 millions to 300 millions makes them look silly, but what is worse—totally unbelievable.

So now you know

So now to the Boaters Manifesto, which I can tell you our Thomas will have nothing to do with, even though he was asked to publicise its poll.

But why? I hear your asking.  Simple my friends, it is rather loaded towards continuous cruisers and liveaboards—four liveaboards in fact on its panel of six—who are hardly a good representative of boaters today, especially the many marina moorers, who have been totally ignored.

Perhaps this is because the marinas might eventually, if one British Waterways executive pulls her finger out, mean some of the backers of the manifesto ending up in them.  But surely the ever increasing costs of marina moorers should at least have had a mention in that manifesto.

Victor Swift

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