Victor: Businesses hard hit

Published: Sunday, 29 March 2020

There is little doubt that the event of coronavirus will have a devastating effect on waterways businesses.

Caused by the forced closures of virtually everything so connected and even the 'open' marinas and moorings having to restrict their services.

Boat builders and repairers, that are not essential businesses, grind to a halt.  The suppliers, such as the leading Midland Chandlers closing all outlets and its delivery service in some disarray.  The boat hire business has completely collapsed with the waterways closed and  boat trips too are at a standstill.

TowpathTalkEven the waterway publications are in peril, with their life blood of advertising falling off dramatically, and such as the leading publication Waterways World no longer listed on Audit Bureau of Circulation such is its downturn in circulation.  With newsagents, chandlers and marina shops closed and so unable to sell copies, it will have its remaining circulation badly hit.  As of course will Towpath Talk that particularly relies on waterway outlets such as chandlers, pubs, shops and eateries to distribute, but has lost them all through forced closures.

This means that none of them can any longer give those advertisers that remain anywhere near the coverage of pre coronavirus issues that will have a great effect on their revenue.

For everyone it is all a matter of wait and see, and who is the most able to weather the storm.

Is there anyone capable?

Way, way back in the dim and distant past of British Waterways, there was a fella who suggested it put a narrowboat on its lake to show its people what it was all about.

watford water2It was old friend Eugene Baston at the old headquarters at Watford that had a lake in its centre, making the suggestion, obviously realising that the staff knew little of the workings of the waterways. 

But alas, little has changed, especially if the stoppage notices are anything to go by.

In the last couple of days we have had notice of the broken lift bridge that will not swing, that should seem impossible even to the most ignoramus.

Now we are told a pan is blocking the waterway at Memory Lane at Lime Kiln Lock on the Trent & Mersey Canal, followed by another notice telling of the same pan blocking the waterway at Memory Lane at Lime Kiln Lock on the Soar—Take your pick.  And for the fourth time the rescue company River Canal Rescue is referred to as Canal River Rescuethough repeatedly told.

Surely the latest notice regarding the Grand Union could be better explained—Water needs to remain low to prevent a rising level overtopping the bow of a boat that is currently not rising from the bed of the canal.

Hardly a notice by someone who understands, with such contorted information becoming more and more confusing for boaters, in addition to reflecting on the reputation by such infantile composition.  Surely there must be someone at CaRT capable of creating accurate professional stoppage notices.

Do we still pay?

Updates on a Tuesday can only mean one thing—no boating for our esteemed editor, for the waterways are a 'no go' area tells CaRT.

I hear grumbling from dear Thomas that as it is illegal to charge for something that is not provided, shouldn't we be getting refunds on our expensive boat licences?  After all we are not allowed to use the boat and are not continuous cruisers.

As continuous cruisers are also told to 'stay put' I think we can take it the waterways are at a standstill, so really, should we be still paying to use them?

Don't deliver

Yet continuous cruisers still need vital services such as pump-outs or toilets emptying, coal or diesel for heating and gas for cooking, and as no one delivers, just how can they 'stay put'?

But what is worse some marinas and boat yards have closed, others are limiting services to their own liveaboards leaving just a few willing to supply.

With even exploitation rearing its ugly head with one lady boater telling us that, calling for her usual services at Church Minshull Marina, she was charged £5 for water!

ThisTwoMetresSpreading the disease

Those self same boaters searching for services also have the dangerous possibility of all those towpath visitors and the risk of catching coronavirus, with no restrictions on them whatsoever.

Instead of the motto 'Canal & River Trust making life better by water' shouldn't it now be 'Canal & River Trust spreading coronavirus by water?

As contributor John Coxon pointed out, all other paths and parks are closed to limit the spread of the disease, so why are the narrow towpaths, where it is mostly impossible to pass two metres apart, still open?

Good news

There must be some good news, and here I have found it—the dams at Arley Aqueduct on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, that has been closed, have been removed with Canal & River Trust telling the navigation is now open.

Hold onis it?

Victor Swift