Wednesday 3 April 2013

Our very own British backyard.

I was at a low ebb, I had little or nothing to do. I then made a fundamental mistake of going on the CaRT website. The banner at the top proclaimed: "Our cherished network of 2,000 miles of canals and rivers flows through the most beautiful countryside and vibrant cities that England and Wales have to offer." Talk about a bad case of myopia. 'Twas like a red rag to a bull, I felt like I should be reporting CaRT to trading standards. 

I had made a conscious effort not to poke the hornets nest. It was a sort of new year resolution not to mock the afflicted. But there are times when even I, the most gentle if robust critic of CaRT has to offload our thoughts.

Things are begin to look very ominous for the future of CaRT as more and more self inflicted 'difficulties' are highlighted. Now with a regular spot in that esteemed organ that is 'Private Eye'. It's not easy to get a regular showing in Private Eye. Which is read by all sections of society because "it tell it like it is." Starting with government ministers hoping that they are not making an appearance. Through to the Whitehall mandarins all the way down to CaRT's 'friends' the man in the street. 

There are various web sites and blogs that continue to be the nearest thing to what might be called a CaRT management conscience. The energetically policed CaRT Farcebook that when I left a positive comment praising - John Dodwell - one of the CaRT trustees. The comment was unceremoniously taken down because they thought I was taking the piss! I do have a few regular readers in CaRT which fall into two camps. The ones who tell me I am wrong - and write a lengthy tome putting me right. Plus the short pithy ones from disgruntled employees telling me I'm right. It's easy to see who has the knowledge and who has spare time on their hands. 

For years the 'managed neglect' of the infrastructure has been used to fund various 'investment' ideas that have failed with dire consequences. In a small scale version of the banking crisis - CaRT continues to be suffering from the same significant problem - highly paid bonus culture - of management with no real credibility. This state of affairs is not a carry over from the British Waterways days. It's ingrained in a culture that operates free from responsibility and blame. Like the bankers, the public have learned to distrust CaRT.

I can't see anyone in place in the new structure who gives me any reason for having optimistic hopes for the future.  CaRT seems to be at war with sections of its major stakeholders - the boaters. Stifling the likelihood of any dissent from the supposed elected 'independent' representatives - with the creation of an unholy alliance with the  IWA.

The latest to be highlighted are the Barges moored unused for years at Wood Wharf in London's Docklands. Dutch Barges that were purchased for a not insignificant sum. Which are now being disposed of for seemingly less than scrap value. This latest revelation is another instalment in the ongoing saga that is highlighting the poor choice of commercial activities. Activities that include loss making ventures such as pubs, property and partnerships. At the same time, CaRT being - big bonus blind - cannot see the one major investment opportunity calling out for its cash.

Everyone can walk along any section of canal towpath and observe the problem first hand. Crumbling infrastructure, with that unkempt and unmanaged look of waste ground. A look that promotes the canals and its surroundings as being all buddleia with the usual graffiti and a fly-tippers Mecca. Canals lined with plastic bags and multicoloured plastic bottles, dead trees and the detritus of everything that's overgrown. Deep towpath puddles and piles of fly infested dog shit. Seemingly miles of mud. and collapsed edges, combined with essential dredging that remains undone. 

The BBC's Julia Bradbury pulled on her walking boots and set out to explore her own British backyard. Taking the opportunity of travelling along the country's network of canals.  It's time for the senior management to take off their hush puppies, pull on a pair of walking boots. Get out from behind a computer screen, fold up and throw away the financial times. Get out on the front line - look and learn.  Don't try fob us off with, Z list celebrity endorsements, don't try to fob us off with lock gate poetry, don't try to fob us off with artie fartie floating forests The canal infrastructure is a very significant investment opportunity. CaRT should grab it with both hands.

Ahhhh... That feels much better...


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