Monday, 20 May 2013


In a perfect world all would be well, the rivers would run - the canals would have plenty of water, the silting up would be a thing of the past. Visitor moorings would be plentiful and lock gates would have no leaks. However, in the real world on the inland waterways, things are not idyllic.  Vince Moran wrote in Narrowboat World in "Condition of the waterways" about CaRT's corporate view and methods of counting, assessing the condition and then prioritising maintenance issues. I found this article gave some interesting insight and some idea of the methodology being used.

Click Here to Read!

Vince wrote about a scoring mechanism where the state of the waterways was classified in a range A to E. (where A is the best condition and E is where there is a very real risk that the asset is close to failure) Principal at risk assets were classified as numbering 10,000. Ten years ago 30% or 3000 of the assets were at real risk of failure. In ten years that number has fallen to 16% or 1600. The fact that the at "real risk" number has fallen is to be applauded. As Vince said, many of the at risk assets are ones that boaters are unaware of, simply because they are generally out of sight.

There is an old adage - out of sight out of mind!

Having 16% of your most important structures in the poorest condition is still not a good place to be. One has to presume that in the next few years the numbers in D and E will continue to fall. That the underfunded maintenance budget will remain the same in real terms, as the concerted effort to manage the "real risk" continues. However, a number of assets that have been in the A,B and C categories over the last 10 years and have developed faults and not been remedied will deteriorate even further and a number of them will migrate into the D and E grouping. 

You then get into a state where you will start to reach equilibrium and the the fall in numbers will taper off, and reverse. Its at this point where the methodology has to take into account a more proactive "stitch in time" rather than the current reactive maintenance. This will require a focus change and reducing the maintenance expenditure on the highest risk parts of the network. Widening the focal point to include C as well as D and E issues.

However, CaRT are never going to reach zero in the D or E category.

I think that what CaRT has achieved so far has some merit, but the more visible side of the maintenance backlog will still prevail and colour peoples expectations and perceptions. If you are underfunding the maintenance and you know you are underfunding the maintenance then what happens when it all goes wrong and someone ends up brown bread. Some may argue that a fall of 14% in the numbers of "at real risk" is not good enough over a ten year period. The argument might be instigated by a coroner, and settled by the courts. Now that the recent canal breaches have given the emergency fund a good kicking. What lies ahead and what will be cut to plug the funding gap so to speak.

If a lock gate is rusty, painting only the worst deep pitted rusty part and ignoring the other is not good maintenance. 



  1. Hi Mick,

    I know Vince Horan was talking about the major assets, but a response I've just received from the West Midlands region of C&RT gives some insight to how they deal with the smaller problems.

    Last month I reported a blocked bridge hole (two fallen Silver Birch trees) and a weed covered section (about 100 Yds long) blocking the Ridgacre branch canal. The response included this line

    "We can confirm that we are very committed to keep all of our canals and there is definitely no intention of us closing and losing this section."

    Very good, but the email then went on to state

    "We have previously investigated the option to dredge it but given the level of contamination and the cost to dispose of these dredging's it is currently unrealistic for us to do so, especially when you consider that we are not always able to dredge the frequently used canals as much as we would like."

    Not so good, the longer it is left the worse it will get and the more expensive it will be to clear, the email then stated that

    "We are aware of this issue being raised on local boaters forums recently so we have addressed it with the local BCNS and told them of our plans and asked for their advice. They agree with our thoughts and have stated that they will not promote its use as part of any rallies."

    So there is now a part of the canal system, admittedly not frequently used, for which the official policy (supported by the local canal society)is not to promote its use.

    At the moment it possible to cruise the first 200 or so yards of the Ridgacre Branch, before being blocked by the weed growth. With an attitude of not promoting its use, how long will it be before the whole branch is lost?


  2. Hi John, certainly some food for thought. I understand that CaRT has signed up to the Groningen Declaration. This stance would fly in the face of such a policy.

    I have prepared a posting on the Groningen Declaration, I will post it up soon. I will include your comments.




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