Letter to EA: Lifting restrictions to recreational powered craft boating on the Thames

Further to our earlier email we now write with our thoughts regarding how best to commence lifting restrictions to recreational powered craft boating on the Thames.

1.. The majority of powered craft cruise between Teddington and Oxford with many tending to remain downstream of Abingdon. Only smaller craft and narrow boats are able to use the river above Oxford and it should be noted that locks above Oxford are beam locks with no powered operation.

2. With well over 100 miles of navigable river we believe it is important not to delay freedom of navigation across the whole waterway because of local issues affecting particular locks or reaches. In normal cruising times river users are well used to local obstructions, lock failures etc. 

3. Concerns re possible movement of shoals during the winter flooding and buoys being out of position should, likewise, not prevent resumption of navigation. In fact, it is often reports from boaters that help to identify such issues. Harbour Master’s Notices and recommendations to proceed with care and exercise prudent navigation should satisfy your duty of care needs.

4. We are aware of a number of specific issues which currently prevent passage :

Sunbury – sunken vessel in upper lock cut

Marsh – Tree completely blocking access above lock

Temple – tree restricting lower lock approach

Abingdon and Sandford – damage to lock gates/mechanisms

Folly Bridge – vehicle in river

Bell Weir, Cookham and Hambledon – local lock issues.

We suggest that these issues should be managed by exception as expeditiously as possible, rather than being an impediment to lifting restrictions elsewhere. 

In isolation, none of these issues are any different to passage interuptions during a normal boating season.


1. Given that the Agency recognises the need to provide greater freedom of navigation, we suggest that a first step should be the restoration of public power enabling easier self service operation of locks by boaters without lock staff needing to engage with them. We recognise there is a need for clear guidance regarding hygiene issues (gloves ? Wiping control surfaces etc?) but would hope this can be quickly formulated – it may even be possible for you to appropriate similar guidance notes being formulated by other navigation authorities.

2. An early notice to river users of precise plans and timescale.  This should include specific information with expected timescales for dealing with the exceptional issues noted above.

3. We recognise, and totally endorse, the need for whatever action is taken to continue to be in accordance with government guidelines relating to the Covid 19 pandemic.

There continues to be considerable confusion and objection regarding the advice that people should not stay overnight on boats. Many owners live considerable distances from their moorings and are unable to make a return journey to useful purpose in a single day.  Is it possible for this to be reviewed ?

Kind regards,

Tony Riley – General Secretary TMBA – 07976 243823

On behalf of:
Chris Turner – Association of Thames Yacht Clubs
Mike Rodd – National Association of Boat Owners
Andy Soper – DBA The Barge Association
Rex Walden – Residential Boat Owners Association
Tony Riley – Thames Motor Boaters Association