Victor: The cat is really out of the bag

Published: Sunday, 18 August 2019

WITH Private Eye the latest to attack Canal & River Trust over its 'transparency and deteriorating waterways infrastructure', the cat is really out of the bag.

The confrontational magazine's web announcement—The Canal & River Trust has a poor record on transparency over its deteriorating waterways infrastructure, follows similar statements from national newspapers and television.

WhaleyBridgeDamThen the magazine has its front page picture of Toddbrook Reservoir's broken spill, and states 'the Whaley Bridge residents want clear answers from the Trust on how well it looks after its deteriorating waterways infrastructure'.

We all know of the varying answers of when it was inspected, with one stating it was inspected last November 'and was absolutely fine', and Private Eye then telling that the residents will take no comfort from its handling of questions about the canal breach at Middlewich stating:

'Boaters have been trying for more than a year to get answers about what happened on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, part of which collapsed and emptied out on to nearby countryside, dumping 20 boats in the mud. But the CaRT has kept its engineering report under wraps and, ahem, muddied the waters over what caused the dangerous incident. Complaints to the Information commissioner over its dilatory response have been upheld'.

We all know that CaRT tried to blame boaters leaving paddles open, but it was made to look silly as any water so released would simply drain over the overflow. The reason believed by many was that the breach was caused by the many hire boaters dashing out of Middlewich to the nearest pub, their washes slowing but surely taking the bank with them, until eventually there was not enough left to hold—so it breached, as I warned when seeing the hire boats hurtling past whilst moored just outside the town.

Private Eye then quoted CaRT's 2018 Annual Report that admitted it had 'experienced a range of asset failures that tested our responsiveness and missed its government-set target to limit the number of days on which canals were unnavigable by more than 40 per cent'.

Finally, Private Eye hopes that 'As more images emerge showing vegetation and cracks in the concrete of Toddbrook spillway, the high profile of this latest dangerous incident may force the CaRT to be more forthcoming'.

More forthcoming?

I doubt it. The many misleading stoppage notices denying any blame and all too often blaming boaters, show that there is little forthcoming.

Four in four days

And here we have four stoppages in four days, with one I find difficult to understand, that rather proves the point:

Yes, my friends, from Tuesday to Friday of last week it started with Cassiobury Lock (76) gates on the Grand Union unable to close and the swing bridge at Foxton on the Market Harborough Arm unable to swing.

Then another swing bridge swingless, this time at Higgins Clough on the Peak Forest, though I should not imagine there will be many boaters that-away.

Ending on the Friday, we are told with Lock 12 on the Rochdale closed 'Due to issues with the downstream lock gate cill'. Which though I do not really understand of course most likely means another busted cill.

It all shows the 'wait until it breaks' policy is still alive and kicking.

Fast—very fast

Mercia Marina on the Trent & Mersey is leading the way yet again, with fibre optic broadband soon being available to every boat!

So no more fiddling with either the local efforts at providing broadband or dongles, but the real thing.

And even more for its boaters in the shape of a new meeting place and even a gym that are to be built.

It was way back in 2009 that our Thomas stood with its manager, Robert Neff on a rise and looked over what was the very start of the marina, with a scattering of moored boats.

But what a difference today, as it is now recognised as the leading inland marina in the country, offering virtually everything, not only for boaters but for visitors to its many attractions.

Victor Swift