David: Failed freight schemes

Published: Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Another freight scheme that Victor might have mentioned, was the BACAT scheme.

BACAT stands for Barge aboard Catamaran and the idea was that the catamaran would carry several 300 ton barges across the North Sea between east coast ports and European ones.

The barges would be offloaded and sail individually to destinations on our north-east waterways and onto multiple destinations on the European canal network.  The big advantage of this was that it avoided the double handling problem which has stymied every modern attempt to use our waterways for serious freight.

British Waterways went for this idea in a big way, sometime around 1980 as I recall. Several of the locks on the Aire & Calder were enlarged to accommodate the barges and a great deal of money was spent.  A few trips were made, then the trade unions intervened, claiming that the system was by-passing the dock labour force and if it caught on men would lose their jobs.

The system was 'blacked' and the whole scheme was abandoned.

flooded lockFlood precautions

I am sure that RCR knows more about it than I do, but I don't see how mooring in a lock will save a boat from drifting onto the land in a flood.  Surely the lock itself will disappear below water level; I am told that the basin locks at Diglis are currently under water and the flood level markers to be seen at many Thames locks are often higher than the balance beams.

I suppose it might work on a canal that was nowhere near a river, provided the overflow weirs are functioning—but then the canal wouldn't flood in the first place.

New guide book

The latest revised Pearson Canal Companion has appeared, covering the Stourport and Black Country Rings, plus the whole of the BCN. A new printer has allowed for an expansion to 160 pages and a proper sewn binding, rather than the previous staples.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover, which is not something I would usually do with a guide book, but Mr Pearson's style and comments invite you to read on; the only similarly beguiling books are A. Wainwright's guides to the Lake District, which are also a literary as well as a geographical achievement.

David Hymers