Opening both broad beam lock gates for single boater

Published: Monday, 05 July 2021

Please see the email complaint and response from CaRT which I have copied below, writes Stewart Downs.

The reason I sent the complaint was not only the boaters update but all the volunteers we have met this year have been insisting that both gates need to be opened all the time, [on broad locks] some rather forcefully. A sign of things to come?

When you only have a single crew member this considerably increases the risk of injury if you have to cross top gates on the beams every time. We have yet to see a volunteer cross over an un-planked top or bottom gate beam!

It appears that CaRT are trying to blame boaters for the very poor state of the canal lock gates. They are also trying to convince people that canal lock gates will last 20/25 years with no regular maintenance? The majority of lock gates on the Kennet & Avon are pre 2000. Are CaRT going to replace all of them by 2020/25? I very much doubt it!

It appears that CaRT's main concern is preventing normal wear and tear so even less or no maintenance is required. The impression we and other PAYING boaters have is that they would be happier if boaters stopped navigating the system all together! Then no maintenance would be required. We feel we are at the bottom of their list of priorities.

My email complaint to CaRT:

'My complaint is the policy change where we are being instructed to open both lock gates to enter and exit broad beam locks when navigating on our own in a narrow beam canal boat.

In 25 years of boating we have never damaged any lock gates by only using one gate to operate a wide beam lock.

The reason stated by CaRT is this long standing practice of entering and exiting locks through one gate is damaging gates. Whereas the cause of the damage is the lack of routine maintenance!

The action of a lock being filled and then emptied causes the fallen branches/twigs/ general detritus (which is no longer managed by CaRT) to build up behind the top and bottom gates obstructing the gates from FULLY opening. When this happens you have no choice but to walk over the top gate to open the opposite gate to allow the boat to exit the lock. All lock gates need to be regularly racked behind the lock gates to allow them to fully open.

For your information the situation is being compounded by licencing maximum width wide beam boats onto the system.These boat,s have no option to open the other gate. They just ram out of the lock!

Walking over top gates (only a few inches wide and a small handrail) with NO top gate planks or if you are really lucky a tail bridge. increases the risk of serious injury considerably and we try very hard to avoid doing so. Falling into an empty lock or falling from the top of bottom gates is not recommended.

I believe CaRT have failed to carry out basic health and safety risk assessments on those locks without top lock planks or tail bridges. Further more I believe they are actively discriminating against the disabled and the elderly boaters/M.o.P. with this change in policy. This clearly contravenes, health and safety, disability and age discriminating laws that would normally apply in any other circumstances to any credible company/charity etc'.

Relevant part of CaRT response

'Thank you for getting in touch about the article in last week’s boater’s update.

I hope I can clear up some of your concern—the section of the Boaters’ Update that you’ve referred to was not part of the new T&Cs for leisure boat licences. It was one part of a section reflecting boaters’ suggestions for actions that could improve boaters’ waterway experiences. The use of both lock gates to avoid damage to the lock (or boat) was part of one boater’s suggestion to help protect infrastructure through considerate lock usage.

This suggestion gives maximum space for the boat when using locks and may help some boaters avoid contact with lock gates, which is an issue that contributes to wear and tear of our networks’ locks. More experienced boaters may not feel this measure is necessary; it’s a consideration, as contact can shorten the lifespan of lock gates, but not something we are looking to impose through our terms and conditions'.