Ben - 9's Waterways

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Planning Madness

The Grantham Canal Society is appealing for our help to fight an instance of planning lunacy!

The Grantham Canal is gradually being restored. It's a long canal and there are plenty of obstacles but the restoration is making progress.

Then along comes the Highways Agency, currently planning to build a new line for a section of the A46 trunk road. The new road will cross the line of the canal near Cropwell Locks.

Has the Highways Agency taken the canal into account? Yes, of course they have - the plans include a bridge under the new road that will be fully navigable and include a tow path.

So what's the problem? It seems that, almost within sight of this new bridge, a feeder road linking nearby villages with the new road is to cross the canal at ground level, with no bridge planned. This is at the site of the original Bridge 16, Joshua Mann's Bridge.

So, immediately, this makes the new bridge pointless and puts into question the whole viability of the canal restoration! What madness!

The Society reckons that it would only cost an additional £300K to build a bridge of navigable height at the same time as the rest of the road-building. However, if no bridge is built at this time it could cost millions to build it later, with much disruption to locals. This would be a pointless waste of money for the sake of saving a little bit now.

Apparently, the only way that the plans can be altered at this stage is if the Secretary of State commands it. So the Canal Society is pleading with all who support its aims to contact the Secretary of State asking him to do just that.

If you want to support them, please write to:
Lord Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport,
The House of Lords,
Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA

More info can be found in a letter from the Vice Chair here. Short of lying down in front of the bulldozers, this seems to be the only thing that we canal folk can do to help fight this madness. But hurry - work is supposed to be starting very soon!


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cutting Corners

So, yet another stoppage caused by equipment failure.

I notice that Lock 14 on the Rochdale Canal has had to be closed because of a broken paddle. I can see how a broken top paddle can make it harder to empty a lock to get a boat through, but it is not impossible. What I can't understand is how a broken top paddle can cause "a substantial loss of water" from the pounds higher up. Could it be that the bottom gates leak like billy-oh?

This seems symptomatic of the way the waterways are being "maintained" these days - problems aren't fixed until they cause stoppages.

I 've lost count of how many locks I've seen where one or other of the top or bottom paddles was out of action and taped up, sometimes with a note attached saying "BW aware". That can be a pain to boaters because it takes much longer to get through a lock. But it is an even bigger problem when something happens to the other paddle. Suddenly BW has an emergency stoppage and people have their costly holidays disrupted.

This is just "firefighting" and is no way to run a waterway!

Now, where did I put my cocoa?


Sunday, 13 December 2009

A load of Bull?

And another thing that I would have made a comment on is this re-organisation that BW has just imposed upon itself.

Yes - yet another re-organisation! How many in that in the last decade or so?

As far as the Pennine Waterways website area is concerned, most of Yorkshire is one area, Merseyside and most of Lancashire is another, while most of the South Pennine and Cheshire Rings make up a third - the Manchester and Pennine area. Our "M" is not so sure about this as, when getting information for his website, he now has to deal with three lots of BW staff instead of two.

The hope is that by creating more but smaller areas, BW's management and office staff will be more in touch with what's happening on the ground. That seems to be a good idea - until you realise that the office from which the Manchester and Pennine area is run from is situated at Red Bull, by the Trent and Mersey Canal near Kidsgrove!

The staff there have to be in touch with canals as far away as Huddersfield, Sowerby Bridge, Hebden Bridge and Manchester. How long would it take someone to drive from Red Bull to Todmorden or Marsden? How familiar will staff working in the office be with these waterways?

The re-organisation may or may not be a good idea, but locating the Manchester and Pennine office on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent is a load of Red Bull!


Saturday, 12 December 2009

What's all the fuss?

Well, it's nice of Mr PW to let me have a little blog linked into his enormous website to share a few thoughts. It's a pity that he didn't let me in sooner, as there was plenty to comment about over the last few weeks.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle about that online petition to 10 Downing Street. It was started by a fellow in South Wales, who enjoyed walking by the Neath Canal and who was disturbed by the suggestion on a television programme that BW's property assets might be sold off by a desperate government.

The Inland Waterways Association didn't seem too pleased that he'd done that. Some people might think that "they didn't like it because they didn't think of it"! Well, it wouldn't be the first time...

Anyway, not wanting to be left behind, the IWA spread the word and encouraged members and friends to sign up, as other groups did, and the last time I looked, there were nearly 20,000 names on the petition! Not bad in a few weeks.

Well, the prophecies of doom failed to come true and the government announced that BW would keep its property portfolio - for now...

Did the petition make a jot of difference or would that have happened anyway? Who can say? But, at least, with the petition making the "top ten" you can be sure that people with the power to make and influence decisions were aware of it.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, just as we are sighing with relief, there are people who are saying that BW shouldn't have a property portfolio anyway and that it should have been confiscated. BW say that quite a lot of their maintenance bill is funded from the profits from the property, while there are some who reckon that BW is putting a spin on the figures and the property isn't helping at all.

It's all too much for me - is that tea brewed yet?