Sunday 28 October 2012

The Seven Blunders!

Robert Aickman wrote in his book "Know your waterways" about what he considered to be the seven wonders of the British inland waterways. He was writing about the achievements of the canal navigators that hastened the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Possibly the most famous of the seven wonders is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Llangollen Canal some 126ft above the River Dee and is also a Unesco world heritage site. The aqueduct is the highest and longest in Britain and was built between 1795 and 1805 using 18 piers with a 1007ft long trough for the canal.

But what of the seven blunders?

1) For me the biggest blunder was allowing the previous incumbents of British Waterways to become the team for transition into the charity. Here was a one time only opportunity for drawing a line in the sand and kick starting a whole new beginning. The once in a lifetime opportunity for a root and branch change, that people could identify with, buy into, a whole new ethos, but it was lost for ever.

2) Many people had become frustrated in their dealings with the old British Waterways Board. However, the main complaint was the sheer lack of much needed waterway maintenance. I don't see that changing any time soon.

3) Another peeve was getting BW to share information proved to be very difficult. This in turn led to a belief among many that there was culture of hiding bad news. Often associated with things such as poor performance of investments and disposal of the family silver such as historical wharf and basin facilities. 

4) The perceptions held were of an ill equipped gang of money motivated individuals who had little care or understanding of what they were supposed to be managing. Information provided to different groups was seemingly at odds. Robin Evans said that British Waterways non-operational property portfolio contributes £40m net per year. The figure given by him to the Board was £16.1m. 

5) ex BW now CART management are also struggling with a self organised legacy of bad property investments. I remember British Waterways plans to open 100 waterside pubs in a joint partnership with Scottish and Newcastle Pub Enterprises. When did the management of inland waterways create a skill set for the management in managing a pub chain.

6) Litigation is the current way of the trust. I'm baffled at what positive outcome they want to achieve. Joe public always sides with the underdog, perceptions last for a long long time.

7) The crazy mind numbing acts like putting poetry on lock gates and floating trees around in boats. Just demonstrates how out of tough the trust has become.


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