Victor discovers a new phrase from Canal & River Trust

Published: Sunday, 02 April 2023

HERE'S a new phrase conjured-up by Canal & River Trust—'to keep the canal navigable, for the benefit of people and wildlife'!

crofton pumping stationThis phrase has been brought in to justify the five months it took to replace the Crofton pumping system on the Kennet & Avon Canal that was re-opened to navigation on Friday the 31st March, it taking that long for contractors to lay pipe work and replace the pumps, we are told, with a modern, more efficient and reliable system.

Since the 7th November the summit has been closed, this being the second phase of the work, the former phase being completed in March 2022.

The pumping system had become very  unreliable with countless stoppages and the new system, we are informed, will be able to pump more water into the canal.

But there's the rub...

There's the rub indeed at the massive costs piled on by contractors, the first phase of the Crofton scheme costing £1.8 millions. But alas, try as I might, I cannot discover the cost of this new five months contractors' adventure—it's no doubt eye watering indeed!

To my mind a great part of the problem of the lack of funds that CaRT keep bringing to our attention is due to the cost of contractors and the time it takes them to undertake even the simplest of jobsI quote that Coventry Canal cill replacement on the Atherstone Flight that we saw completed in one day compared to contractors taking, as usual, from Monday to Friday.

With contributor Amy Dikerson's relating it taking contractors a week to repair the Marbury Lock cill on the Llangollen.

But that quick Atherstone fix was during the days of British Waterways when not only was work done 'in house' but by people who knew what they were doing.

AtherstoneGateLeansThe difference

The difference indeed is the case where contractors were attempting to replace a lock gate on that same Atherstone Flight where another contributor took this photograph of the contractors having little idea of what to do, eventually managing to drop the gate and get it stuck!

Then needing a crane to get it outall pushing up the cost.

Replacing that particular gate I have just searched and discovered it took over a week leaving boaters complaining when eventually replaced, that it leaked!

Well shackled

All down to whoever decided when Canal & River Trust was created that contractors would do the main repairs instead of in-house, with alas most of those knowledgeable British Waterways people now long gone.

Windless BabyI realise I tell of cash wastages, but hampered as the trust is with the expensive vagaries of contractors it is indeed well shackled.

Little wonder there is such a 'budget shortfall'.

This is crazy

Here's a picture to shock you all.

Unbelievable as it may seem this lady is actually holding her baby in her arms and at the same time using her hands to work the windless to open a paddle.

She has two hands on the windless whilst supporting the baby in her arms as she winds the paddle up.

But just think.  As so often happens for some reason or other the ratchet does not seat properly and the windless flies round.

Just what will it hit?

When only one is working...

All too often these days the lack of maintenance means that many locks have only a single paddle working on a set of gates, so when the other gives up the ghost the inivetable occures—the lock is closed.

The latest being on Lock 94 on the Hanwell Flight on the Grand Union, our Keith informs, with the single paddle no longer working, leaving the flight out of action.

There's another stoppage—St Pancras Lock (4) on the Regents Canal is out of action as—wait for itthe south top gate 'is currently jammed partly open, will not close will not open'.

And still bad news about the Huddersfield Narrow—Lock 23W is still closed as further investigations of the ground paddle are needed which will require the lock to be dewatered. So that will be another week with the contractors, eh?

Victor Swift