THERE have been a number of comments recently about the possibility of CaRT taking over responsibility for navigation from the EA and several people have opined that they would not trust CaRT on flood control, writes David Hymers.
As far as I am aware this is not on the agenda—it is navigation which would be transferred and responsibility for controlling water levels would remain with the EA as it is now—the recent stoppage at Derwent Mouth was because the EA were doing something to a sluice, although the navigation is controlled by CaRT.
The licensing problem
There is, however, an issue connected to this which seems to be an elephant in the room which nobody is saying anything about. This is the whole business of what licensing regime would be introduced for the unified system. They could simply continue to operate the existing systems, but this would mean administering four different major systems (Canals, Thames, Nene/Ouse and Gold) and several minor ones for unconnected waterways, and I would have thought that a unified system would be one benefit of the merger.
This would have to take account of the fact that the new system would have a lot of boats which would not be able to access everywhere; the present CaRT system deals with this by measuring length only and assuming that wide beam boats which cannot go everywhere are compensated by not being charged for their greater width.
Have to pay more
I have always thought that the Thames system of charging by area was fairer, but if this were adopted generally there would have to be some system of dealing with boats that cannot access the whole system. Those of us who do have boats that can go everywhere would almost certainly have to pay more—probably amounting to a compulsory Gold licence.
Another possibility would be to have a much lower licence fee and then levy a payment according to distance travelled - this would require the installation of some sort of electronic gizmo, which I suspect is technically feasible but might well be unworkable in practice. It would also play into the hands of the continuous moorers.
Silent on the matter of licences
I suspect that it is this licensing issue which is at the back of a lot of the opposition to the takeover, especially that from the Thames, and also explains why CaRT seems to be rather lukewarm about the whole business—it looks as though it has been parked in the 'too difficult' basket. A lengthy article on the issue in Spring issue of IWA's Waterways was entirely silent on the matter of licences. Perhaps the IWA, who are the main advocates of a CaRT takeover, should put forward some proposals for what a new licensing system should look like and start a sensible discussion.