It's official—boating is in decline

Published: Tuesday, 29 March 2011

FOLLOWING swiftly behind the news that the number of visitors to British Waterways' canals and rivers fell in 2010, comes news that boating is also in decline, writes Allan Richards.

A leaked report, written by BW's Adam Comerford, Group Hydrology Manager, states that lock usage in 2010 fell by 7% against 2009 figures.

Annual 'lockage' report

BW's 2010 annual lock usage report blames the decline on restrictions and closures in the summer and the cold weather conditions at both the start and end of the year, but ignores other possible causes such as rising boating costs, stagnating licence numbers and the high number of boats 'for sale'.

The only waterways showing an increase in numbers were the Kennet & Avon Canal and North Wales and Borders, both up a miserly one per cent. Unsurprisingly, bearing in mind BW's inability to keep the Leeds & Liverpool Canal open, North West waterways suffered a drop of 27%

40% claim

However, it is the figures for the Lee & Stort that stand out in the report. With BW claiming that the number of boats on that waterway has risen by 40% over the last four years, one would have expected the Lee & Stort figures for boat usage to buck the national downward trend and show an increase. Not so!

The new report shows that lock usage on the Lee & Stort fell by 14% in 2010 (and by a similar figure in the London area as a whole).

The waterways

The results of lock usage of the waterways showing a decline are:

  • Caldon -18%
  • Coventry & Ashby -8%
  • Stratford -9%
  • Chesterfield -26%
  • Trent & Mersey -8%
  • Montgomery -8%
  • Macclesfield -18%
  • Peak Forest -4%
  • Rochdale -15%
  • Lancaster -12%
  • Leeds & Liverpool -27%
  • Lee & Stort -14%
  • Regents Canal -14%
  • Grand Union -5%
  • Worcester & Birmingham -4%
  • Birmingham & Fazeley -21%
  • BCN - 13%

Those canals showing an increase in lock usage are:

  • Kennet & Avon +1%
  • Shropshire Union +1%
  • Llangollen +4%
  • Oxford +2%
  • Staffs & Worcs +1%

The rivers:

  • Trent -17%
  • Ouse -19%
  • Fossdyke & Witham -22%

The other canals and rivers are not recorded