Saturday 31 August 2013

Waterways comparison website!

Yes I know, 'compare the meerkat' has some tenuous link to this blog. In the main because the writer has a passing resemblance to Alexandr Orlov. But we have no connection to 'compare the market' but I thought it would be interesting to do a 'inland waterways -v- highways comparison' of my own. 

Are boaters fools? 

Ask that question around a group of boaters and I am sure that most people would answer with a guarded 'no'. I expect it would also gather a few trite 'only when I'm drunk' type of retorts. However if I qualified the question with a few observations first. Then maybe in a way we are fools to ourselves. 

Like all things in life boating is a hobby or even an obsession with some people. It provides a holiday retreat and for some it might even be their home. In effect its very much like an expensive recreational vehicle but one that travels on the water. Which is a very acceptable analogy. There are other similarities such as where large and small caravan parks provide an acceptable equivalent to a marina or sanitation block. 

There are many roads over which the recreational vehicle can travel. If there's a blockage on one road. Then alternative detour routes can be used to continue the journey to your destination. Short of a small delay you could plan your arrival and departure with some certainty.

Compare this to the waterways.

On the waterways, your option is to sit out the stoppage or turn around and choose a new destination. You are always taking a gambol on the waterways, due to poor maintenance.  Forward planning can be thwarted in a moment, due to poor maintenance. Your return within your planned schedule is always going to be at risk, due to poor maintenance. There are many single points of failure such as some locks left working for years on a single paddle. This is in the main because the maintenance on the waterways is poor and reactive rather than effective and proactive.

The road fund licence for your recreational vehicle is very much like paying for a boat licence. You can't use the roads or waterways without one. On the roads, it depends on how polluting the vehicle is. The cost varies from as little as £35 to around £200. You can use all public roads in the UK.

Compare this to the waterways.

On the waterways it depends on how long your boat is. Currently the Canal and River Trust waterways the minimum cost of a boat licence is £467.39 rising to £488.89 next year. The current maximum is £1016.32 rising to £1063.07 next year. Some of the waterways are owned by the Canal and River Trust. Some are owned by the Environment Agency, Peel Holdings for instance. There are others such as the Norfolk Broads that have different licencing schemes. You may need additional licences or short term permits to enter and navigate their waterways.

Before you can take your recreational vehicle on the road you need insurance cover. If your recreational vehicle is over a specified age you will need a MOT certificate. If you place your recreational vehicle on a campsite site or in a caravan park for an extended period say a six month summer season. You can give the ministry of transport a SORN (statutory off road notification) you can then claim back unused months on your road fund licence. If you store your recreational vehicle off road the winter months it is the same. A typical cassoa silver site, would do 3 months storage for your recreational vehicle for £60.

Compare this to the waterways.

Before you can place your boat on the waterways, your waterways craft will require insurance cover. Depending on the crafts age it will also require a boat safety certificate. In the vast majority of cases if your boat is stored in a marina, you will still need a boat licence. You will also have to pay marina costs. Charges are very variable but you will certainly need to budget for £2000 or more.

The Department for Transport is responsible to parliament and the general public for the English transport network. Plus a limited number of not devolved transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The department is run by the Secretary of State for Transport, currently Patrick McLoughlin. Ministerial salary including MP pay £107,108. Responsible for around a quarter of a million miles of roads. There are no performance related pay or bonuses.

Compare this to the waterways.

The Canal and Rivers Trust is responsible for around 2000 miles of inland waterways. The outgoing CEO was on a reduced pay of £190,000 but in actuality with a bit of smoke and mirrors remained on his previous remuneration of £220,000. David Cameron the Prime Minister is on a salary of £198,661 and he is supposed to be responsible for everything with no performance related pay or bonuses.

As an aside, the Canal and River Trust are currently trying to encourage members of the public to become 'Friends' of the canals. In a recent survey of boaters, expressing their thoughts and perceptions about the Canal and Rivers Trust. Included a wonderful comment from a respondent that summed up everything. There are no "friends of the M1".

Is what we are given value for money and do you feel its managed in a transparent and fair way. I will ask the question again, are boaters foolish to themselves or is some charity extracting the urine?


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