NABO meeting with CRT August 2022

Mike Rodd and Anne Husar met with Matthew Symonds and the new National Boating Officer, Eleanor Bridgwood-Hill, on Wednesday 24th August for their regular catch-up meeting.  Key issues at this session were…

  1. The boat licence increase – CRT are predicting a £7m shortfall but assured us that the published winter programme would go ahead in its entirety. When pushed about the ‘non-essential’ cost saving measures planned, only that some community projects would be affected. Parry has now admitted that the canal system cannot be safeguarded in the future. 
  1. The facility study results – Initial findings to be published in September. Two canals, the Shroppie and one other will be trying out contactless payments for pumpouts.
  1. Leicester Line problems – the 3 lock repairs in the winter works will definitely go ahead. There is no money to do more. CRT are trying to recruit staff to the regional team but finding it difficult. When they do, they would like boaters to offer to take them on the canal to show the problems faced. 
  1. NABO remains un-represented on NAG – CRT are still looking at Phil’s application, along with others outside of NABO.
  1. Unpowered craft through tunnels – Mike related a scary incident that happened when he was boating recently where he narrowly missed two unlit canoes because his wife heard them talking from her position in the bow and alerted him. There have been several unpowered craft going through the Islington Tunnel this summer. Matthew categorically stated that unpowered craft would continue to be allowed through these structures, that this would not be stopped. He is asking for boaters to report inaccurate tunnel signage on the new blue and white signs (as are the Historic Narrowboat Club). CRT is to introduce a ‘Paddles Portal’ for rangers to report on if they come across unlicensed padlers. Matthew was of the opinion that any responsibility in the event of an accident would lie with the unpowered craft if they were not complying with the rules.
  1. HS2 – CRT is actively liaising.
  1. Birmingham visitor moorings – Matthew hadn’t heard of any proposed consultation on reducing the 14 day moorings in the city to 2 day. He agreed that boaters needed to be encouraged to moor in the city as it is underused at the moment.
  1. Vandalism on the system – apparently there is an unspecified amount even though my FOI request did not provide any evidence. Matthew will ask the 6 regions to have another look at their crime report numbers. I suggested that CRT should be more careful with its wording.
  1. DEFRA news – not a lot, they are waiting for the new prime minister to be announced (!). The little that CRT are hearing is not good, probably a smaller grant that will be open to further reduction over the period.
  1. Merging with the EA in the future – NO.
  1. Vegetation – lots of problems with the contractors and vegetation will be sorted over the autumn and winter until the spring when it will stop again for nesting birds. Matthew would not be drawn as to whether CRT had actually saved the £2.2m predicted or not.
  1. Reaction to the census – Matthew tried to explain how this would indeed be anonymous, I think because Snap will be given our emails and will deal with reminders etc. Phone calls to fill in the forms will however be conducted by CRT staff. They have sent to an initial 10% of boaters to iron out any problems before rolling it out to all. They have had a 20% response and will be sending out reminders. CRT believe that this will give them useful information as to the needs of boaters.
  1. Facebook – CRT’s page includes all users of the waterways apart from boaters. The person who runs their social media is over stretched and CRT are looking to recruit. Matthew will pass on our concerns.
  1. Scooters etc on the towpaths – CRT can’t do anything about this although there is an app to report this which will show hotspots that can then be targeted by rangers. Apparently there have not been many reports.
  1. Movement of boats during the drought – Matthew reported that CRT are being more lenient if boaters are finding it difficult to travel the required distances.
  1. Waiting until both paddles break – Mike reminded Matthew that there is still a problem on the K&A which is affecting the trip boat. Apparently more hirers than usual are giving up on their holidays half way because of all the problems. Matthew will get in touch with hire boat businesses to assess the situation.