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Is the current infrastructure really any worse than the 70s 80s?


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Only have limited experience of north west narrow canals but I would say that there was still improvement from the seventies through to the new millenium, things started getting a bit iffy and have then gone seriously downhill since the creation of CaRT a decade ago. Nowadays, there are no banksmen, no proper lock keepers, no blue workboats. Almost everything is paid contractors and unpaid volunteers. Sell off assets, reduce maintenance and redundancy in the system and you have the perfect storm that was the near Todbrook failure in 2019 and the consequent problems of water availability on the Upper Peak and Macc

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30 minutes ago, Rambling Boater said:

I first started boating in the early 80s.  To those who still remember boating in the 70s and 80s and have current experience has the infrastructure really got worse overall? I'm not so sure.

It varies. I bought my first liveaboard boat on the coventry in 1989. The cov is vastly better now than it was then. We spent our first day dodging cars and settees and all manner of stuff. Much of the system is better now. Unless its totaly collapsed since I left last summer. Places though, like the A and C are now in worse condition. All locks and cottages were still fully manned back then as there was still plenty of proper commercial traffic. The A and C is now a bit frayed round the edges and weedy in parts. Oh and of course parts are now not allowed to be used commercialy as it spoils things for anglers :banghead:

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My first experience was on a holiday boat in 1974. Two of us went from Stoke to Nantwich and back.

 

I think the infrastructure was much worse then. Since it has improved but is getting worse again.

 

But, more importantly, boaters were more proactive in the 70s, they mucked in, got dirty and didn't always wait for outside help. I blame the invention of the mobil phone.

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To make a comparison it’s necessary to consider how much bigger the (CRT) network is today and how many more boat movements are made. There are 33% more locks than in the 80s.

 

In terms of how usable the network is it’s hard to see to how any objective measurement wouldn’t conclude it’s in much better condition. 
 

Even on a qualitative basis of the same canals I think the same largely holds. In the 70s and 80s even walking the towpath was a challenge because it had been washed away in many places on even the busiest sections of the network.

 

Urban canals were much more difficult back then and on my first encounter with the Birmingham & Warwick Junction it felt almost derelict and was a struggle. It’s much improved today.

 

Some say there’s been a decline since the 1990s but I can’t really comment on that as I didn’t do much boating in that decade. It does though coincide with the extending of the network and possibly a resultant thinning of available resources.

 

 

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We started about the same time, things improved thru the 80s and 90's and then started a slow decline in the '00s, the last 10 yrs has seen a rapid acceleration 'downwards' such that the parts of the system we used were as bad as the early 80s.

 

As BilgePump says - everything sold off, experienced staff laid-off, volunteers with little knowledge or skills replacing them what left to like ?

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1 hour ago, BilgePump said:

Only have limited experience of north west narrow canals but I would say that there was still improvement from the seventies through to the new millenium, things started getting a bit iffy and have then gone seriously downhill since the creation of CaRT a decade ago. Nowadays, there are no banksmen, no proper lock keepers, no blue workboats. Almost everything is paid contractors and unpaid volunteers. Sell off assets, reduce maintenance and redundancy in the system and you have the perfect storm that was the near Todbrook failure in 2019 and the consequent problems of water availability on the Upper Peak and Macc

Not much one can add to that except agreement.

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In the early 70s my parents had a boat at Keynsham, as Caen Hill had not been restored cruising was limited so I guess there is an improvement in that area.

There is certainly a different attitude today with most people expecting everything to work perfectly and towpaths be manicured which you didn't have in the 80s.

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56 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

We started about the same time, things improved thru the 80s and 90's and then started a slow decline in the '00s, the last 10 yrs has seen a rapid acceleration 'downwards' such that the parts of the system we used were as bad as the early 80s.

 

As BilgePump says - everything sold off, experienced staff laid-off, volunteers with little knowledge or skills replacing them what left to like ?

∆∆∆∆∆This∆∆∆∆∆

😯

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1 hour ago, Captain Pegg said:

 In the 70s and 80s even walking the towpath was a challenge because it had been washed away in many places on even the busiest sections of the network.

 

 

On my first canal holiday in 1976, the towpath on the Southern Oxford between Braunston and Fenny Compton was virtually non-existent in many places. As the weather was fine, most of the crew would often get off and walk along the towpath, but regularly had to be picked up at bridge holes when the towpath beyond was impassable.

 

The following year, a long stretch of the canal between Watford and Foxton was shallow and so full of reeds that there was barely a boat's width of clear water.  There was no lock-keeper at Foxton to assist a descending boat stuck in the passing pound because the water level was too low for it to enter the upper lock of the lower staircase.  No mobile phones then, and it was a public holiday, so I sorted it myself by opening all the paddles of the upper staircase to let down water until the passing pound's water level was high enough. 

 

Extensive piling seems to have largely eliminated the poor towpath problems we encountered in the late 1970's, when a long gangplank often proved useful  when mooring up. On one boat where  the edge of the rear deck had inwardly-directed flanges, we were able to cantilever the gangplank out to the side to allow us to."walk the plank" to the towpath when we couldn't get close enough to step off to secure the mooring ropes. 

 

On more recent holidays the closure of many of the canalside pubs that are listed in my 1970's Nicholson guides was apparent, but of course pub closure is not just confined to canals.

Edited by Ronaldo47
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1 hour ago, Rob-M said:

In the early 70s my parents had a boat at Keynsham, as Caen Hill had not been restored cruising was limited so I guess there is an improvement in that area.

There is certainly a different attitude today with most people expecting everything to work perfectly and towpaths be manicured which you didn't have in the 80s.

 

 

Yes I was thinking this too. I think the state of the system is much the same as in the 80s only bigger. The main difference is people's expectations. They think by spending £1k a year on a license entitles them to expect everything to work like clockwork like on The Thames. The Thames however is significantly simpler to run as there are more or less only the locks and weirs to deal with. No embankments to collapse, no legal issues over bridges, no reservoirs or water supplies to maintain, no tunnels or ducts under the river to maintain, and probably a really substantial grant form the guvvermint.

 

What IS the status of the EA? I guess it is a guvvermint-funded quango and the Thames is just a minor/trivial part of its responsibility. Might be really good news for us boaters if they took over the canals and CRT was wound up. Especially as the license fee would start being charged by deck area so fatties paid their fair share.

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1 minute ago, MtB said:

What IS the status of the EA? I guess it is a guvvermint-funded quango and the Thames is just a minor/trivial part of its responsibility. Might be really good news for us boaters if they took over the canals and CRT was wound up. Especially as the license fee would start being charged by deck area so fatties paid their fair share.

Anglian Rivers appear to be well looked after, certainly better than CRT, yes you get stoppages and they are dealt with promptly, can't remember the last time I saw any orange tape on a lock or structure.

I have been told that it's not as good as it used to be which to me means it must have been amazing then.

Big bonus is there are almost no towpath shufflers 🤭 they are very much frowned upon by other boaters especially as many of the 48hr moorings are effectively private and are maintained by FOTRN and GOBA.

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10 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

What IS the status of the EA? I guess it is a guvvermint-funded quango and the Thames is just a minor/trivial part of its responsibility. Might be really good news for us boaters if they took over the canals and CRT was wound up. Especially as the license fee would start being charged by deck area so fatties paid their fair share.

Not so on other EA waters though- there was an outcry when they tried to do this on the Nene and Ouse and the EA backed down and scrapped the idea.

Shame as I pay the same reg fee as a 65ft widebeam (Im 50ft nb) and would have actually been alot better off.

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43 minutes ago, MtB said:

What IS the status of the EA? I guess it is a guvvermint-funded quango and the Thames is just a minor/trivial part of its responsibility.

 

I spend most of my time on an EA river.  Navigation does get closed but its mainly due to the river being in flood, which isn't anyones fault... currently on an EA mooring which is nicely kept.  I have come across failures but they are usually dealt with pretty quickly, the other year a guillotine lock had a motor failure, it was fixed a few days later when we came back... my main gripe is fallen trees, they seem to take months and months to get sorted out even then it's not done particularly well with big stumps left sticking out...

Edited by Quattrodave
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1 hour ago, MtB said:

...

What IS the status of the EA? I guess it is a guvvermint-funded quango and the Thames is just a minor/trivial part of its responsibility. Might be really good news for us boaters if they took over the canals and CRT was wound up. Especially as the license fee would start being charged by deck area so fatties paid their fair share.

After experiencing the Nene and Great Ouse last summer I would welcome that. Let's be honest it couldn't be any worse than it is now.

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Just had a CRT guy out at Compton Lock, branch stuck in gate paddle so lock wasn't emptying particularly well.  Someone called it in about an hour ago and the CRT guy arrived with his keb and dragged the branch out.  Pretty good service on a bank holiday Friday.

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52 minutes ago, Midnight said:

After experiencing the Nene and Great Ouse last summer I would welcome that. Let's be honest it couldn't be any worse than it is now.

It is a generally good system (I love it) but Eaton Socon lock has been shut since Xmas and not due for reopening until approx Mid May. Quite a stoppage for an unexpected replacement of a  pair of gates! Even CRT manage to accomplish some rather more major repairs in this time.

So swings and roundabouts I reckon 😀

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We used to carry winches and cables, and regularly used to get stuck in the 80s, fouled gates damaged brickwork and great lumps.The shaft and shunting pole were always to hand to get off the bank and clear the blade.

Much better now, and the only difference was moving from a big northwich motor to a big woolwich, so boat remains pretty constant.

 

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22 hours ago, mrsmelly said:

It varies. I bought my first liveaboard boat on the coventry in 1989. The cov is vastly better now than it was then. We spent our first day dodging cars and settees and all manner of stuff. Much of the system is better now. Unless its totaly collapsed since I left last summer. Places though, like the A and C are now in worse condition. All locks and cottages were still fully manned back then as there was still plenty of proper commercial traffic. The A and C is now a bit frayed round the edges and weedy in parts. Oh and of course parts are now not allowed to be used commercialy as it spoils things for anglers :banghead:

Its beyond me Tim the commercial traffic stops a few years ago so the maggot drowners think that's how its going to stay!

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On 15/04/2022 at 14:01, Rob-M said:

In the early 70s my parents had a boat at Keynsham, as Caen Hill had not been restored cruising was limited so I guess there is an improvement in that area.

There is certainly a different attitude today with most people expecting everything to work perfectly and towpaths be manicured which you didn't have in the 80s.

 

I began canalling in the summer of 1973. Things were definitely worse then, and as others have said, you were expected to deal with issues like leaky gates by dropping a tarpaulin or sheet of wood over the holes yourself and just getting on with it.

 

There was a sense of adventure to each trip which is missing today.

 

I recall driving to Devizes to view the derelect flight of locks in the early 70's, and attending the reopening of the canal in 1990.

 

The condition of the locks, towpath and depth of canal improved steadily through the 70's and 80's and peaked by the mid 90's.

Edited by cuthound
To change devices back to wot I rote, Devizes
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