The waterways future looks bleak

Published: Tuesday, 26 May 2020

WITH Canal & River Trust telling that many canals will not re-open when the lockdown is lifted and further stoppages, the waterways future looks bleak.

One has to wonder what is going to happen to the boating season this year, writes John Coxon.

Will it be any use

Hire companies are saying that they are starting to get bookings, but with overseas travel having problems and not being so attractive at the moment it's the time to grab as many as they can!  Marina moorers are now looking their boats over ready to set forth for the summer as well . But wait—will these bookings or preparations be of any use?

The lockdown has been lifted over the week-end but already we have had four notices, with no doubt more to follow, telling us that canals have been closed due to a lack of water in them!  Yes that's right, the Leeds & Liverpool, the Peak Forest, the Macclesfield and now the Huddersfield Narrow canals are all closed until further notice because they are dry, CaRT tells us.

Exceptionally dry weather

They state it is 'Due to the recent exceptionally dry weather', I say, that is a load of male bovine faeces. Who the hell do they think they're trying to kid?

Last winter was very wet, even last summer was exceptionally wet, we can all still remember the floods.  We are told we had some of the heaviest and longest rainfall totals ever recorded last year.  So what has CaRT done with all this lovely water that was provided for free?  Where are the reservoir stocks that should be carrying us over the summer?

Answer, it appears that the reservoirs are so small and the reserves of water so meagre that there is not enough to maintain levels if there is no regular rain to keep them topped up!

Where has the water gone

But the canals have not been used this season as yet as we have all been on lockdown and not able to move, you may say?  So where has all this so called stored water gone?

That's easy, the canals leak so much that it just drained away as no-one was keeping an eye on things. CaRT has furloughed all it's staff during the lockdown.  Nobody has been around to do essential house-keeping!

CaRT love to tell us that they have a 200 year old system to look after and it's not easy, but at the first opportunity, it seems they sent most of their staff home and neglected it totally!

But, they still insisted on keeping the towpaths open, then used the excuse that in order to maintain social distancing for their workforce upgrading they were stopping all visitors coming onto that particular towpath.

Reasonable management decision?

If they call that a reasonable management decision then, as far as I'm concerned, it just goes to show how incompetent they really are!  All they did was take the quickest route to not spend money by getting the government to pay their furloughed staffs wages!  Not a thought about how it would affect the system!

If they had closed the towpaths, as the boaters said they should, they could then have allowed their staff to at least maintain water levels, do basic house-keeping, finish some winter works and protect boaters moored alongside.

But no that's not the CaRT way.  Maintaining the canals for the benefit of boaters was not a CaRT priority.  Letting walkers and cyclists use the towpaths was.

Closing canals one after another

The total incompetence is now closing canals down one after another because they have not maintained water levels properly.  Their 200 year old system leaks like a sieve as we have been telling them for a number of years but they have chosen to ignore this fact!

Do they not have the nous to see that if they totally neglect a system that is already suffering from chronic neglect that it would fail completely?  Aren't there any engineers left in CaRT that have any say and also have any idea what would happen if you let it all go?  Or, were they all laid off to be paid by the government as well?

We are now being asked not to use staffed locks, tunnels, shops, facilities etc. to allow the staff manning them to maintain social distance!  If they don't want us to use them, then why open them?  Keep us all on lockdown until they feel it is safe to man them?

Not worth a collective fig

I'm not wasting time going into all the canal societies and boaters associations because as far as I'm concerned they're not worth a collective fig.  I have not seen a single one support the boaters in their call for a total closure of the towpaths.  Some even supported CaRT's policy!  Even the NBTA capitulated.  I hope you boaters all remember this when they put their hand out for subs or ask for you dip your hand in your pockets or purses for them later?

Seeing what is already happening, I recommend that all boaters plan this year's route very carefully and have an alternative route planned in at all times.  Be very wary about planning routes with 'rings' in them? Getting held up for an indefinite period when you are just one or two days away from home is not fun!

Plan a shorter cruise

Plan a shorter cruise this year and find things on route, off Cut, to enjoy. There are plenty of them if you look?  As retired and a continuous cruiser it matters little to me if I'm held up on route as I've normally nowhere to be at any particular time.  Neither do I have to be back for work, school etc, so try to plan for this.  Have a contingency plan so you can be collected, if needed, by car?  You can then get your boat home later when able.

You can bet your last doubloon that CaRT will not be trying hard to prevent unplanned stoppages. Preventative maintenance is not on their bucket list of things to do!  They can't even see that if they replaced the anti-vandal locks on the lock gates they would, in most cases, prevent the deliberate emptying of pounds and save even more water?  Even greasing or oiling paddle mechanisms is now beyond their thinking!

Just take care and think before you leap

I hope you all have a happy holiday cruising the waterways.  Just take care and think before you leap. Then I'll see some of you at the next mooring.

Put the kettle on and we can chat about the weather as English folk always end up doing, ortoiletsas boaters always seem to end up discussing!