Four Counties failure—didn't take long in coming

Published: Friday, 16 April 2021

WELL—it was inevitable and didn't take long in coming, writes John Coxon.

A lock or culvert failure on the Four Counties Ring was going to happen and then we would be in real trouble. Well it's happened. In fact twice in one day. First to go was Trentham Lock and now Stanthorne Lock has given up the ghost.

Increased heavy traffic

I'm moored on the Trent & Mersey at the moment and it's getting very busy so the system will be straining with the increased heavy traffic.

There are 94 locks, 37 small aqueducts or under-bridges and an unknown number of culverts on the Four Counties Ring and with the current trend it's not surprising that some have given up in despair?

At 110 miles long, hire and holiday boats doing it in a week place real stresses on the infrastructure. Given 3mph and three locks per hour on average that means you need 68 hours of cruising.

Difficult to make up any hold-ups

Given that these boaters will only have six days out of the week to do it they will have to travel for an average of 11 hours 20 mins each and every day to accomplish it. Any hold-ups will be very difficult to make up, especially if they occur late in the week.

This then means that they end up racing the clock from mid-week to just get back in time to go to work or hand the boat over as even turning round will not help by then. Trying to rush through locks just makes things worse as it stresses the already badly maintained and weakened lock too much so that it finally breaks holding everybody up!

An utter disgrace

Various reports state that between 15 and 25 waterways are closed or badly restricted (exact figures are very hard to come by). This, at the start of the season, is an utter disgrace, as I have already stated here.

We started off with CaRT giving us a list of 21 waterways badly affected by major problems or stoppages. I added the Weaver and this first week of the season CaRT has issued at least three more closure notices including the very popular Llangollen, closed 'until further notice'. Now the Four Counties Ring has also been closed.

Are we to have the usual 'we are looking into establishing a method of repair' drivel to all of these or will CaRT just get them fixed as a matter of urgency? I'll leave you to answer that one and I'll bet you know the answer without needing any prompting from me.

We should have compensation

I think it's about time we boaters were given some form of compensation for the lack of amenities we are being asked to pay for. With so many miles of waterways unavailable to us we should have our licence fees reduced pro rata?

CaRT stating that it needs the money for maintenance is an insult to all the boaters who pay for their licence just to see it spent on stupid things like duck lanes, poems, new blue signs, cycle tracks, flower beds etc. etc. whilst at the same time watching as the locks and swing bridges fail, the culverts, walls and bridges collapse etc. etc, and all taking months to fix with CaRT still only able to say 'we are looking into establishing a method of repair'!

Unable to use for three months

If we are not able to use 40% of the system then all boaters should get a reduction of 40% on their licence. Those who are trapped the wrong side of a stoppage and can't get out at all should get a 95% reduction. After all, none of us have been able to use any of it for three months so far this year meaning we should all get 25% back immediately?

CaRT are a disgrace, unfit to run a bath let alone a unique national treasure that's over 200 years old and earned full recognition to be granted, in the main, class 1 heritage listing.  Even if, as it seems, they don't like boaters, they are still under a legal obligation to maintain the systems structure to it's listed level of class standard which they are obviously not doing at the moment as we can all see only too well.

Still nothing heard from the various canal societies etc. on this matter either, but I bet their fees have gone up again this year as normal, just like the licence fee will I expect?