Gongoozler: Third party stoppages

Published: Saturday, 24 February 2018

IT HAS been noticeable that, in addition to repairs to the navigations, a number of stoppages are caused by third parties or those not associated with the canals.

Okay, so canals are not independent of the world they traverse and at times they are crossed by a vast number of other people's communications.

Do not interfere

Whilst utilities and roads appear most frequently other services cross either above or beneath and usually do not interfere with traffic on the navigation. On most occasions even when such crossing traffic has to be attended to, the navigation remains open.

Recently however it would appear that the navigation authorities have increasingly given permission for the canal (it is usually a canal) to be closed to traffic for significant time periods.

Now this doesn’t often happen when railways or highways cause closures. If it does then an acceptable alternative route has to be provided. This can mean a short diversion along nearby roads; a temporary pedestrian bridge or, for long diversions, a bus service for pedestrians. Rarely, if ever, is the flow of traffic stopped.

Why not a similar position?

So why isn’t a similar position adopted by the navigation authorities? They could reasonably insist that third parties arrange that the canal is opened for daily/weekly periods throughout the closure period. Perhaps providing a canal diversion might be asking too much but they could ensure, in areas like Birmingham, that stoppages on alternative routes don’t coincide or that route options exist over longer diversions e.g. if Coventry Canal is closed then the Leicester Section is open.

Or they could put the boaters first and only give permissions that require a passage at all, or fixed, times. Now that would be radical thinking! Who are their customers? Why not put them first?

Commercial businesses

There are commercial business on canal banks that rely on boats—not just hire craft—but boat builders, repairers, fitters and painters who all need boats to reach their premises. Long stoppages prevent this and have a long-term impact on their company’s profitability. They operate all year round so it is not acceptable for navigation authorities to say 'its winter so nobody will be using the canals'. If third parties want to cross the canal they should pay the appropriate price that will enable navigation to continue and businesses to go about their normal trade. Or would the navigation authorities prefer to compensate the affected industries? I doubt it!