Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Canal trust's tunnel vision

From the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine. Please help the sellers and buy 
the magazine when you have the chance to do so. 

Canal boat owners believe the government’s decision in 2012 to transfer public ownership of England and Wales’s canals to a charitable national trust is working out a success.
Two years ago, the website Narrowboatworld.com expressed fears that the Canal & River Trust (CRT) would fail to find alternative funds to replace the annual government grant to British Waterways (BW), the public body that spearheaded the revival in the inland waterway system after it fell into disarray following the arrival of railways and the automobile.
The new body has had its annual government funding cut until 2027, by which time it’s intended for CRT to be self- financing. Without guaranteed funds Narrowboatworld.com believed CRT would be unable to properly maintain the 2,000-mile canal and river system. But CRT is now able to raise money itself, through rents on properties, and is free from any further government cuts.
‘Unique opportunity’
Canal users believe the new arrangement is bearing fruit. Les Etheridge, chair of the Inland Waterways Association, which has 16,000 members, said:
“The canal system is over 200 years old and inevitably has unpredictable problems. But when I first started boating in the early 1980s there were much more regular tunnel closures.”
Nigel Stevens, owner of Sowerby Bridge narrow boat holiday company Shire Cruisers and CRT executive council member, said: “There is a unique opportunity to plan for the long term future. That would not have been the case if the canals remained under government control.
“The change is concentrating minds and I am certain that
in the end the waterways will become sustainable.”
Seventy-year old Ken Hall, a narrowboat owner in Hebden Bridge, said: “The outlook for canals is good.
“Generally when tunnels collapse they don’t take too long to repair.”
However Narrowboat.com continues to express concerns about “crumbling waterways” and said CRT should spend more on maintenance.

A spokesperson for CART said: “Not everything is perfect. But the canal structures in the worst condition have halved to 15 per cent in the last decade. The future of the canal network is the best for generations, especially as we have recruited many volunteers, including 250 lock keepers, without impacting on the numbers of staff, who have retained their terms and conditions.”

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