Reflections of an Ancient Boater—'Let it Fail' leads to mayhem

Published: Monday, 26 April 2021

WE CAN say for certain that the 'Let it Fail' policy pursed by CaRT is proving a spectacular 'success', writes Ralph Freeman.

As an Engineer by profession, I consider it to be no less than corporate vandalism and no way for a charity, whose prime purpose is to maintain the Navigation, to behave.

Let in fail in action

I put it to you, dear reader, that no boater in their right mind would pursue such a maintenance (sic) policy. Imagine you notice there is oil in the area below the engine in your boat. Would you just think I'll put it on my 'things to do list' and carry on running the engine?

What if the oil leak was a result of a loosening oil filter and some time in the future the engine seizes solid having run out of lubrication. So the lack of a simple check, and the tightening of the said filter, has cost you a new engine at £6,000 PLUS. That is 'let it fail' in action. The consequences of which may be many hundreds, if not thousands of times higher than fixing the problem promptly!

Company vehicles

I sometimes wonder if the extensive fleet of vehicles run by CaRT are run on the same basis?  I doubt it somehow!  I expect the 'company cars' supplied to many CaRT staff (at boaters expense) are leased. It is a condition of leasing that the said vehicles are serviced on schedule and well maintained. Why is that I wonder?

Then of course there is the commercial knock-on effects to consider. It is hard to see how the hire boat industry can survive with the rate of stoppages as they are this year. It must be nigh on impossible to predict when a boat will be able to return from a weeks cruise! So here we have a charity wilfully destroying an entire industry and the jobs that go with it.
A similar situation applies to boaters with jobs too. How long before they decide a motorhome trip is a better bet for a relaxing holiday, rather than an iffy cruise in a narrowboat with the ongoing worry of 'will I be able to get back for work?'

A charity out of control

The fact CaRT is a so-called charity makes it's behaviour even more irresponsible. Without doubt, CaRT's neglect of the navigation is bringing the whole charitable sector into disrepute (think of the repercussions of the Whaley Bridge reservoir fiasco). Boaters are expected to pay a full license fee when the canals are often closed during the boating season. Would OFCOM allow mobile companies to do the same if their network was out of order for long periods at a time? Of course not!  Maybe what we need is an equivalent body (OFCUT?) to moderate CaRT's behaviour?

Being a charity in a monopolistic situation allows CaRT to behave in a way that no commercial operation could countenance. Their customers would vote with their wallet and spend their hard earned cash elsewhere rather rapidly and maybe start a class action to recover their money as well.

It used to be said 'The only thing worse than a public monopoly is a privately owned monopoly'. CaRT is proving that not to be the case; the worst thing would appear to be charitable monopoly. Not something to be proud of CaRT no matter what your extensive propaganda machine claims.


Write to your local MP and make them aware of the situation. You can always put a link in to narrowboatworld so they can see for themselves the current situation. I'm less convinced that the Charities Commission will take any action, but it's worth a try. After all, at the present rate of deterioration, how long will it be before your narrowboat is confined to it's mooring through a lack of navigable canals? Remember, you will have a charity to thank for that!