CaRT's dismal failure of lock gate replacement

Published: Wednesday, 18 January 2023

THE Canal & River Trust is failing to replace anywhere near the number of lock gates it should.

For at least 30 years, and probably longer, CaRT and British Waterways have told the public that lock gates need replacement, on average, every 25 years.

Following a tip-off from within CaRT, Allan Richards has used the Freedom of Information Act to get the actual figures.

Gates and leaves

CaRT does not make it easy for the public to understand how it is performing in its lock gate replacement programme.

It should be simple! CaRT has 3105 lock gates that need to be replaced, on average, every 25 years. To achieve this it needs to replace about 124 gates per year. 

However, instead of saying how many gates it replaces and how that compares to 124, it double counts mitre gates and gives figures in 'lock gate leaves'. This is meaningless to most and only serves to hoodwink the public into believing that CaRT is performing better than it is.

The real figures

Here are the figures provided by CaRT for gates replaced in each of its ten financial years. Remember that the trust needs to replace 124 gates per year ...


CaRT's webpage "Building Lock Gates" reads:

An average lock gate lasts for about 25 years. As they come to the end of their working life they will get a visit from our carpenters, who measure it up, ready to be rebuilt back at the workshop. Usually it takes a couple of carpenters two weeks to build a pair of lock gates, but for the biggest gates it can take over a month'.

States it builds 180 a year!

And adds: 'Each year the two workshops normally build 180 lock gates between them, at a cost of over £2 million'.

The truth of the matter is that over the last ten years, the average number of lock gates built is just 85 per year (not 180). This is 39 gates short of the 124 needed....

But don't worry, it gets worse!

This year (2022/23) CaRT intend to replace just 71 gates and certainly not 124.