David: Canoes in tunnels

Published: Monday, 05 June 2017

THE latest proposal from CaRT to allow canoes in tunnels deserves all the opprobrium that has been heaped upon it.

Given the sensitivity that British Waterways and CaRT have shown over the years towards tunnel safety it beggars belief that this idea has even seen the light of day.

Over the years a fortune has been spent on tunnel safety, including the provision of chains in all tunnels, access for the fire brigade at all entrances and innumerable notices nagging boaters to switch off their stoves, stay within the confines of the boat, wear lifejackets etc etc. Now they want to add flimsy, unpowered boats travelling at water level which a steerer won’t be able to see because his own boat is in the way. Have they ever heard of risk assessments?


Talking of notices a recent cruise on the Staffs & Worcs produced a location where some notices are actually needed.

Just north of Autherley Junction the canal passes through a series of narrows, caused by the need to build the canal through solid rock, known as Pendeford Rockings. For several hundred yards the canal is only 7ft wide, apart from a couple of tight passing places.

Where a similar situation occurs on the Llangollen above Trevor there are notices advising you of the problem and suggesting that you send someone ahead to check for and warn oncoming boats. Similar notices appear at Armitage 'Tunnel' on the Trent & Mersey. At Pendeford, nothing. Since a lot of hire boats use this section, surely there should be some warning given.

Emergency stoppages

There have been the usual collection of emergency stoppages so far this summer and most of them seem to have been dealt with pretty promptly. I remain unconvinced that this problem has become worse than it was say, 20 years ago.

What has changed is that everyone, thanks to the internet, now knows about every stoppage that occurs, whereas in the past you never knew they had happened unless you had the misfortune to be directly affected. Perhaps CaRT should check their archives and tell us how many emergency stoppages there were in say, 1990-95, when we still relied on paper notices to tell us about them, if we were lucky.

A couple of the stoppages have been caused by broken balance beams and caused closures of several days. This puzzles me, since it is perfectly possible to operate a gate without a beam by judicious use of a boathook, so why close the lock?

Good news

A couple of pieces of good news recently. Apparently the bridge on the Bridgewater which Peel Holdings closed to rebuild, thus blocking access to Wigan and Liverpool, except via the long way round, has re-opened sooner than promised. Now all that has to be sorted is Peel Holdings new rules, which prevent you making a return trip to Liverpool without paying to come back.

The other piece of good news is that our local Pearson’s Canal Companion, the South Midlands one, has appeared in an expanded new edition. The frequency of Pearson’s updated and wholly new editions really puts Nicholsons to shame, though which you prefer is a matter of taste—I know which one I prefer.

David Hymers