Friday, 6 February 2015

The season of unplanned Stoppages!

Its the winter and so as we have moored up our boat until the spring arrives. I have a lot of time on my hands to devote to putting the Inland Waterways to rights. I started to think about the so called 'Winter Stoppages' the season of planned repairs. A time when there will be long periods when cruising the boat will be either curtailed or limited in scope. The stoppage season made me reflect again about the parlous state of the waterways. Plus the increasing number of unplanned stoppages that occur, outside of the 'stoppage season'.

Last year we were caught up by the stoppage on the Trent. The cruising plans we had made during the 'winter stoppage' season were dashed. The lock at Holme Pierrepoint was closed for several months. But not only that, there were even more instances of collapsed locks. That also closed other sections of waterways for long periods. I'm beginning to think that rather than a cruising season – we should refer to the 'Unplanned Stoppage' season instead. There is no expectation now of going from A to B without a significant risk of an an unplanned disruption putting paid to your plans

Anywhere else in the UK other than the inland waterways and we would be taking the authorities to task. Here on the inland waterways CaRT cuts the maintenance budget beyond the bone and we pay the price. I'm not talking about what we pay for our licences and in the majority of cases for our moorings. We also pay with disruption and disappointment brought about by the ever increasing number of stoppages that occur in the unplanned stoppage' season. The Trust seem not to be the least bit perturbed about this state of affairs.

The thing is that as boaters – we complain and grumble amongst ourselves about the poor state of the maintenance. Since the re-emergence of the multi million pound Dutton breach, we will now be complaining and grumbling amongst ourselves about the quality of the repairs being carried out.

As CaRT continues to enjoys its monopoly position which it inherited from British Waterways nothing has changed. If push comes to shove there would be good reason for thinking things have gotten a whole lot worse. It begs the rhetorical question why should CaRT care for the boat owners. After all just who is CaRT actually answerable to?

I know, you know the whole country knows that the trust needs an active and campaigning group standing up for boaters rights. If only to ensure that the Trust keeps its eye on the ball. It needs a 'friendly foe' that gives timely reminders when the already appalling standards fall even further. Instead of pressing for the so called 'steady state' we should be pressing for year on year improvements above and beyond the steady state.

The trust needs nudging back on track. There are many wildlife groups who can look out for the various animals on our waterways. Think of any kind of wildlife and there are national organisations with years of experience and expertise. The RSPB would instantly come to mind for bird life. There are trusts for the specialist such as bats, butterflies, dragonflies and even those furry cute voles. The trust should concentrate on keeping the canals and rivers fit for navigation. The other wildlife issues will improve as a result of maintaining the canals and rivers to navigations standards. The trust should concentrate on navigation and do an excellent job. Rather than diversification into lots of piss poor efforts which are not in its remit.

Then it dawned on me – we also in some cases contribute to boating associations. Ones like the IWA supposedly to represent our collective view. To campaign for the much needed improvement in all aspects of the waterways management and maintenance. Some of those associations like the IWA have now entered into a cosy little mutual back scratching relationship with CaRT. They seem to conveniently ignore the real issues effecting waterways users of all kinds. Recruited as waterways busy bodies – AKA – Waterways Rangers. Then with a nod and a wink, they also help CaRT to deflect the angst about the pitifully poor state of the inland waterways.

As a group boaters can just sit back and moan. Those of us who do, can continue to give a donation for nothing to such associations that have abrogated their whole raison d'etre. I have said it before and I will say it again, Rolt and Aickman must be revolving at high speed. The grey granddads are in charge of the madhouse.

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