Use the 'David Fletcher Era' at British Waterways as your benchmark

Published: Wednesday, 14 April 2021

SO THE Canal & River Trust is looking for a 'Baseline' for it's operational standards eh? Asks Andrew Claxby.

Well here is my suggestion. Use the end of the 'Dr David Fletcher Era' at British Waterways as your benchmark. There, that's saved £150,000 that can be spent sensibly (on lengthsmen for instance?).

No stoppages during the season

At that time I used to set off on the 1st March eight months spring/summer/autumn's meanderings. After hanging about locally for a week, (the stoppages usually finished the second week of March), I would then set off on a mission to some far flung corner of the system.

I never bothered to look to see if the way I was heading was 'open', that was taken for granted, the stoppages were over, right?  The only hold-ups encountered during those months were for trivial things such as a log preventing the closure of a ground paddle, or a dislodged brick jamming a lock gate. These sort of things were usually dealt with within a couple of hours. That was a time when British Waterways staff were allowed to carry tools in their vans and furthermore they knew how to use them!

End of the rings

Compare that to the present situation where you never know one week to the next whether a canal is going to be open or not!  It must be a nightmare for the poor hire boat operators. I can remember when it was common for a crew to turn up to collect their hire boat from Great Haywood and complete the Four Counties Ring in a week. Try that now!

The chances of finding the Staffs & Worcs, Shroppie (plus Middlewich Arm) and the Trent & Mersey all open at the same time is about as likely as winning the lottery.


If you asked many of the extended cruisers (and hire boat companies) to evaluate the performance of CaRT, you would get many answers, the majority of them unprintable, I suspect.  It's not just boaters either, ask the people of Whaley Bridge whilst you are at it.

I suppose being generous the PC way of summing up CaRT's recent performance is to describe the outfit as 'Not Fit For Purpose'.  I refrain from using the term 'organisation' in the same breath as CaRT as that is surely an oxymoron.