Two surveys initiated by the National Association of Boaters (NABO) have concluded that boaters are generally inclined to be positive about the state of inland waterways managed by Agencies other than British Waterways (BW), but feel negative about the canals and rivers run by BW.
This is the Executive Summary for the Other Agencies' Waterways Condition Survey. Click here to open a new window for the full report (458KB pdf). The report should be read as being supplementary to the BW Survey Report. Click here for a summary presentation (first shown at the NABO AGM.)
This survey was about non-BW waterways, to create a comparison with the BW one. 88 boaters contributed to this survey, with a total of nearly 2000 years of experience and over 32,000 miles cruising in 2009.
Invitations to contribute to the surveys were distributed widely to members of NABO, RBOA (Residential Boat Owners Association), TBA (The Boating Association), IWA (Inland Waterways Association), DBA (The Barge Association) and SOW (Save Our Waterways), other waterway-related organisations and to other boat owners and hirers through Internet forums and newsgroups.
Although there were only a quarter of the number of respondents to this Other Agencies (OA) Survey compared to the BW Survey, the fact that many of the same respondents' comments were positive demonstrates a useful degree of subjectivity.
The majority of boats used were narrowboats, which precipitated requests for this to be taken into account by the relevant navigation authorities: the Environment Agency, Broads Authority, Peel Ports, National Trust, Basingstoke Canal Authority, River Avon Trust, Devon County Council, Middle Level Commissioners and the Port of London Authority. Often moorings and lock landings are designed for cruisers, not narrowboats.
While some boaters noticed more broken equipment, temporary fencing and graffiti, they were in the minority. A minority thought other agencies' locks and moveable bridges were harder to operate than they should be. These results were in stark contrast to those in NABO's BW Survey.
A lack of dredging caused problems with cruising and mooring for about a quarter of the boaters in the survey; the number finding it difficult to moor because vegetation was not cut back adequately was more significant. The lack of visitor moorings needs remedying according to two thirds of the boaters asked. In each of these categories, criticism of the BW waterways was much higher.
Nearly half found no difference in the way that the amount of dredging, underwater obstacles and weed affected their cruising this year compared with previous years: fewer than in the BW Survey.
It was when comparisons with 1, 5 and 10 years ago were invited that non-BW agencies came off better most noticeably. These figures are illustrated in the Executive Summary of our BW Survey. Suffice it to say that over a third felt positive while under a third felt negative; the remainder felt there had been no change.
Over the last three years boaters' costs, including fuel and licences, have increased above inflation on all waterways. Cost drew the largest number of contributors' disapproval: 62% said that, compared to previous years, they felt negative to some extent about the cost of boating this year.
All the comments have been sorted by OA waterway. Each has drawn some criticism, much of it constructive. The two reports will be published on the NABO website: http://nabo.org.uk under Issues►Surveys. BW and each of the Other Agencies whose waterways feature in the survey results will be made aware of their publication. NABO will be pleased to discuss the results with any navigation authority that invites us to talk.