Thursday 11 October 2012

Fix My Canal

I have reported problems on the waterways to CART. However, after many months I have come back to the same place on my travels. Only to be disappointed to find that the item reported is still in the same condition. 

Talking to others when meeting up at locks with problems there is often anecdotal evidence that some repairs have been ignored for years. I know its easy to for people to show their disenchantment and frustration by generalising about timescales. But this is often compounded by the apparent long term lack of maintenance.

This year we have come across locks with gates that have needed several people to operate. Just because the physical effort needed, is beyond the capability of even a single fit individual. These problems are well recognised yet nothing seems to be done.

The question is: Is it actually worth reporting the continued lack of maintenance or risk of injury to CART. If after months, nothing has apparently been done about the problems.

I would imagine that CART have a database of reported defects. The database content could be made available to everyone to see on line. This is after all the digital age, even for the 200 year old inland waterways. 

Such systems have been around for a long time. Sending a parcel by a carrier most companies now allow you to see and track where the item is.  Image the situation where you are cruising from A to B and you could check for known problems you would encounter along the route. 

You could check to see if any problem had been reported and recorded previously. You could also become the eyes of CART by checking at the locations to see if things have deteriorated. Currently, most people would not report the problems that they become aware of, because the perceptions are, that nothing ever gets fixed until it becomes a major repair creating a stoppage.

Imagine if someone had reported a leak on the Trent and Mersey Canal where the recent breach occurred. If you had been aware of its location you might have been able to alert CART before the breach actually occurred and one and a half million pounds might well have been saved.

I would however imagine that CART would not feel so charitable. Preferring that we are not aware of the parlous state that the infrastructure is in. A few million pounds wasted upon repairing a breach would be a welcome price to pay to avoid managements embarrassment. 

The difficulty in implementation of such a system is because the problems were inherited from British Waterways. As was the CART management. Fresh management could have ignored what went before. The old management would feel their past exploits could come back to haunt them.

So I think that what went before, will be the future. Or will it! 

Maybe there is a possible solution. Fix My Street is an on-line system where problems on our roads can be independently reported. Maybe this can be extended to include the Inland Waterways infrastructure. Pop your postcode or choose a location on a map into the Fix My Street system. You can see all the problems that have been reported in the past. 

Fix my Street automatically send the reports to the appropriate local authority. Plus the site carries the local authority updates. The canals are already contained within the maps. Imagine how easy such a system would be to implement.



  1. I have contacted FixMyStreet, and would recommend other people doing that as well; asking them to put CaRT (and other navigation authorities) as organisations responsible for the network upkeep would allow for greater transparency to the public can only be a good thing.

  2. Reply from Fix My Street.

    Many thanks for getting in touch.

    We would indeed like to add other authorities to the system rather than just councils, but unfortunately at present we are restricted to just being able to send reports to councils. This is something that we are working on, and hopefully we will be able to do something with it in the next year.

    Deborah Kerr
    -- is run by mySociety
    Project of a registered charity
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