On behalf of the NABO Council and all our Regional Representatives, our chairman, Mike Rodd, would like to wish all our members a very happy and safe New Year.
He continues: We can only hope that it is better than the past one! It will be, though, a year of great challenges both personally in view of the on-going Covid situation, but also for NABO, given that both the EA and CRT will be getting close to preparing their bids for future government funding. Whilst wonderful words were said about CRT becoming more financially viable as an independent charity, it is painfully obvious that even their present state funding is less than they need to keep out precious canals in good condition, and with the changing political situation, seeking government funding is going to be even more difficult – we will never be high up on any government’s priorities. And it is painfully obvious that the government will look towards moving the EA’s navigational responsibilities away from their present government home and place them into CRT’s care – will huge consequences for the latter’s funding and operations. As always, there is plenty for us to do.
Covid 19 situation. The tiered restrictions of December have not been working well enough to keep hospital capacity at reasonable levels. The cases are on the rise all over the country. The Christmas relaxation was curtailed at the last minute and we expect that the new lockdown will continue through January and perhaps February. Most waterways are in Tiers 3 and 4.
CRT website says: Navigations will be open, subject to the ongoing government guidance. Boaters can stay overnight on their boats and take extended cruises in Tier 1 and 2 areas. In Tier 3, overnight stays outside of the local area are advised against, unless necessary for work or education etc. We would also strongly advise against travelling to or from your boat in Tier 3 areas.
All navigation in Tier 4 areas in England, and in Wales, should be limited to essential use only. Boaters who are not currently occupying their boat should not take short overnight breaks on their boat during the period. Those living aboard are advised to limit their navigation, moving only a minimal amount to access essential facilities or services when necessary. Please moor considerately. Boat licence terms & conditions regarding moving every 14 days will be suspended in Tier 4 and Wales until the restrictions come to an end. If you have any questions, please contact your licence support officer.
Members are advised to continually check both CRT’s and EA’s websites for advice on cruising and visiting boats during the current Covid crisis. We recommend also checking for winter stoppages as many dates are slipping as works often need to be reprogrammed, and trees down and unplanned events continue to occur.
Winter stoppages. The CRT stoppage works are now in full swing. If you are still cruising keep an eye on what is going on. The list is here..
A major breach has occurred on the Aire & Calder Navigation, a helicopter was used to move 100 one-tonne bags of stone into the breach hole. At the time of writing repair works are ongoing.
CRT Terms. Hopefully members will have responded to the consultation on the proposed revised terms and conditions which closed on 20th December. For those in any doubt as to why it was so important to get our views across, the following is an extract from an email sent to a boater from the National Customer Support Manager - Licence Support, who is responsible for managing the consultation: “...We’ll finalise the terms and conditions and begin rolling them out through 2021/2022. Once they’re finalised you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you agree to them for your next licence. If you choose not to accept the T&C’s, your boat won’t be able to remain on waterways owned or managed by the Trust.” Well we always knew it was ‘take it or leave it’. Is this the recommended way for a public service charity to attract and retain customers? You can read the three parts of NABO’s response here.
NABO’s response to the consultation on the proposed changes to the terms and conditions has been received positively based on the response we have seen. It has been extensively discussed across boating social media groups including our own Facebook site. It was well reported in Towpath Talk as well NarrowboatWorld an online magazine. Mike Rodd had a long discussion with Jon Horsfall, Head of Customer Service Support, who thanked NABO for our detailed submission. We look forward to learning whether CRT has listened to our concerns.
Member writes on CRT T&Cs. We were pleased to receive an email from a longstanding member; the following extract neatly sums up the approach of your Council. “...It seems to me that NABO is now the only organisation with a broad-church approach, trying to represent all boaters who wish to see the waterways maintained as a connected system for navigation, whilst retaining the remaining heritage structures and ways of working. The vital words here are ‘connected’, ‘navigation’ and ‘heritage’; all essential to avoid it becoming a series of pastiche boating ponds”.
Mooring on EA waters. Together with other boater representative organisations on the non-tidal Thames, and supported by a RYA legal adviser, NABO has unsuccessfully continued to raise issues regarding many aspects of the EA's decision to bring in a car parking company to supervise all of its short-term moorings. The terms of the operation require all users, from 4th January, to register on arrival and, whilst the length of stay and charges might vary, almost all provide for the issuing of significant penalty charges if boaters fail to comply. In most cases, the first 24 hours may be free of charge, but there is a requirement to register on arrival and failure to do so may result in a penalty charge of up to £150 being issued. It is also implying that failure to pay could result in the seizure of the boat! Whilst we all accept that the EA does need to sort out some blatant overstaying issues, we are concerned by the aggressive and possibly illegal approach being taken by a company whose sole interest is making money from resulting fines. But the EA has chosen to ignore all the suggestions from its main boating users!
NINF. A full National Inland Navigation Forum meeting was held on 12th December, specifically addressing the proposed revision of CRT’s T&C's and the decision by the EA to contract the car parking company, District Enforcement, to regulate moorings on its waterways. All members agreed that both issues were of grave concern and resolved to seek a meeting with CRT's senior management. Unfortunately the follow-up meeting with CRT's personnel had to be re-scheduled for the new year due to the Head of Customer Service Support having to withdraw due to family problems.
NABO, together with three other boating associations, has written to the EA strongly refuting the rationale behind the issuing of this contract. In the meantime, NABO advises members cruising the Thames to keep a record, and evidence if they can, of their arrival and departure time together of any and all contact with the company involved.
Kickstart. CRT has received funding under the Kickstart programme for 69 placements at an estimated value of c.£500,000. The six-month positions are being offered as part of the initiative, a programme for young people aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment. The programme will support young people to build up their experience and help them move into sustained employment after they have completed their Kickstart-funded role. In Burnley, Leicester and Walsall, up to 36 young people will gain experience in waterway management and customer service, including canal and towpath care and a range of ‘green’ environmental projects. Another 31 positions are based with the Trust’s construction teams, where participants will learn heritage skills ranging from masonry, bricklaying and carpentry, to canal bank protection and towpath resurfacing. Two further roles are being created in the charity’s digital marketing team.
Harthill Resevoir. A £5 million upgrade to Harthill, which supplies water to the Chesterfield canal, has been announced. Despite the positive PR spin, the main work includes lowering the reservoir levels for a couple of years while work to remodel the overflow spillway is completed. This is no doubt a direct result of inspections following the Toddbrook near-disaster.
CRT rebid engineering term contract. CRT is currently advertising for civil engineering companies to tender for £800 million framework contracts over the next 10 years. Kier holds the current contract.
NAG. David Fletcher attended an all-day video meeting of the Navigation advisory Group on 14th December. On London, CRT reported that they have completed 11 meetings with 200 people taking part. They have a further 500 written responses to consultations. This process will conclude in January. Then there will be a formal consultation in 2021. On Terms and conditions, CRT reported 3500 responses so far, with some good feedback. There was no point by point discussion. (See Helen’s report below.) There was a discussion on the merits of dredging for potential growth of freight traffic on the Aire and Calder. There is no pay-back at the moment, but is this the sort of thing that CRT should do? It would cost £500k one-off and then £120k pa to dredge, receiving only half this in income. Rather topical, given that the canal is leaking at the moment.
BSS TC. Mike Rodd and David Fletcher attended a virtual meeting of the Technical Committee on 8th December to review appeals from four boaters. These do come up from time to time, and highlight the difficulties of managing the rather loose requirements of the RCD, the ever changing international standards and the longstanding BSS requirements. It was reported that the gas training is complete. A few examiners have elected not to take part and they will retire in April 2021. If you are having an examination done, ask the examiner whether he/she is trained for the latest requirements.
BSS MC. David Fletcher attended a virtual meeting of the Management Committee on 16th December. We understand that the long awaited training programme for new examiners will commence in February 2021. This is very welcome as recent years have seen a steady decrease in the number of examiners available. BSS has published its accounts and you can see them here. The income is predominantly from examinations, and varies from year to year as the number of boats requiring renewal is not the same every year. The main costs are staff and subcontract activities. More on this in the next NN.
CRT Council, boaters reps. Helen Hutt attended a virtual meeting on 7th December, mainly to talk about T&C consultation, which closed on 20th December. CRT plans to make some amendments, considering comments made by respondents (mostly regarding sections on home moorings and craft dimensions); there will be another internal meeting to review this in January and new T&Cs will be issued in April. CRT is trying to hold discussions with the Boat Builders Association on craft dimensions but with little success. CRT feels that 10% response, 3000ish, was good considering the topic. It didn’t accept that readability was an issue! They appear to have taken on board the user-unfriendliness of the consultation process and agreed the platform used was not good. Most criticisms/comments were batted away.
London management. Nine Zoom sessions have been held, involving 150 people (mostly boaters) plus 400 survey responses. Main issues raised are: lack of mooring space in quieter areas, facilities, validity of data, more boats = greater security, growth of wide beam numbers – data not clean. Suggestions from respondents include charging for some services, bookable moorings, fixed charges, more short-stay moorings, banning triple mooring. The final Zoom session is on 8th January after which findings will be presented to the Boater Reps.
APPGW. Helen Hutt attended the MP and Lord's meeting on 8th December. An interesting meeting chaired by Michael Fabricant MP. Three good presentations from Richard Parry, CRT; Adrian Main, Avon Navigation Trust; John Packham, Broads Authority, all focussing very much on widening the appeal of the waterways and all emphasising how much more money is required to keep them in good shape! Helen has asked for copies of the presentations and will share them if she gets them.
Lord Dolar Popat asked RP, on behalf of a constituent, why Cumberland Basin, Regents Canal, had not been dredged despite numerous promises; no real answer but it just illustrates that this is a good forum if you can get to the right person. Tony Lloyd MP raised the issue of vandalism; it was generally agreed that getting more people to use and love the waterways (initiatives like Let’s Fish) was helping to combat this. Lord Bradshaw said that, with new housing in the Thames Valley, there would be water shortages. A proposal is to install a Severn-Thames pipeline but he asked whether the Cotswold Canal could be completed and used instead, with many additional benefits. M Fabricant thought this should be the topic of another meeting. Andrew Denny asked what was happening with shortage of water on the Rochdale Canal and the potential opening of the Rochdale Town Arm. RP explained the challenges and hoped the canal would re-open before next summer. He and Tony Lloyd will discuss the Arm project separately. Roger Stocker, British Cycling, commented on the lack of diversity on the waterways (ironic considering that all those at the meeting except Helen were men, mostly white and of a certain age).
BSS TC. Mike Rodd and David Fletcher will attend a virtual meeting of the Technical Committee on 26th January. This meeting is to continue to review the revised examination requirements.
CRT Forums. This would normally be the time of year for these. We have seen an announcement for 12th January for the NE. Have you got one for your area?
The CRT terms consultation has given us some welcome publicity. We have had several mentions from Towpath Talk, and they continue to publish Mark Tizard's articles. Narrowboatworld has covered our concerns about the T&Cs and the EA Thames mooring charges quite thoroughly We also wrote to Canal boat and Waterways World but any comment will appear in the next issue. On social media the Canalworld forum has had long running threads where NABO highlighted its work on the potential problems and Facebook with its many boaters' pages has also been a useful media site.
The first 2021 edition of NABO News will be prepared after the Council meeting with a copy date of 23rd January. Please get your items and some happy towpath stories and pictures in to the editor.
Web Master on behalf of NABO Council
If you are a NABO member and addressee and no longer wish to receive these bulletins, click here and send an email. Please add your membership number. We will delete your email address and only use snail mail for all your communications.