Incapable of keeping Pennines crossings open

Published: Friday, 13 January 2023

YOUR correspondent Jenny Wicks is right to be concerned about crossing the Pennines via the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Frank Auffret writes.

These past few years C&RT seem to be incapable of keeping open, for any length of time, what used to be a very reliable route. Those of us mooring in West Yorkshire are fed up of the constant stream of stoppages not only on the L&L but also on the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale canals.

Russian Roulette

Planning a cruise across any of the Pennine routes is like playing Russian Roulette with five bullets in the gun. For the past two years we and many others have been stranded or had to make last minute alternative arrangements for escaping Yorkshire or returning to base after a summer cruise. 

In October 2021 we heard about the Gargrave Lock failure as we prepared to return. With a long stoppage for the Stainforth & Keadby railway bridge looming, the Trent wasn't an option. The Huddersfield is considerd even more risky, so we hastily rearranged our return via the Rochdale. Four stoppages in five days on the Rochdale canal alone didn't help with our blood pressure levels and we just made it over the summit with minutes to spare before another three weeks closure. 

In 2022 C&RT decided to drain reservoirs for maintenance works. The subsequent summer draught, various lock failures and a breach gave little opprtunity for any Pennine passage. Stoppages on the Leeds & Liverpool, Rochdale and Huddersfield canals saw boaters getting stranded again and again. Even the prestigeous 'Pennine Explore Cruise' had to be abandoned at the last minute!


Members at our boat club were given the opportunity to ask Regional Director, Sean McGuinley some probing questions regarding the poor reliability issues in the area. Each question being fobbed off with the usual 'no funding' response despite the amount of cash wasted on non-essentials like blue signs, two-tone van livery, Facebook adverts, contractors and directors bonuses (for what?). 

In regard of Yorkshire waterways C&RT's record is abysmal. With four stoppages on the Leeds & Liverpool canal and a lock failure at Brighouse already, 2023 doesn't look like it's going to get better. No wonder boaters from further afield worry about coming north and I suspect many more have already abandoned any thought of it.