Canal & River Trust – Navigation Operations group report

Mike Carter, chair of the Navigation Operations group reports:

We’ve been meeting for just over a year now and it’s great to be able to report, as the Chair, that the group consists of a really good cross section of extremely experienced waterway users. We have a combined total of over 310 years of inland waterway contact and 270 years of canal boat ownership or usage. The group has members that include various types of boat owners, ramblers and canoeists along with senior Trust operations staff.

A lot of work has been undertaken in this first year with the aim of developing ways that the group can best fulfil its role and tasks. This has been embraced fully by the entire group. Everyone has taken seriously the need to build understanding and have worked constructively to achieve this.

I see one of the main challenges, for me as Chair, as being that of managing expectations, both among the group and those of wider waterway users. The experience each group member has brings with it an understanding of what changes could and should be undertaken to deliver a better waterway. However, while we have begun to demonstrate an ability to deliver solid, relevant advice the task will always be ongoing. The reality is that in quite a lot of instances the value of the advice we give may not be immediately obvious or recognised for some time.

During this year the Operations group has looked in depth at some key priorities; dredging requirements, vegetation management, safety at locks, and more latterly reviewing a joint project with the Environment Agency looking at best practise for Strong Stream Warning signs and customer prompts.

On Dredging – we looked in detail at how the Trust approaches decisions on dredging priorities, the challenges (both technical and financial) it faces and how it tries to balance the decisions made. We were impressed with the level of technical complexity being managed and pleased to see that the Trust already had a well-financed, long term plan and was implementing a tougher test for waterway lengths being classed as of acceptable depth. We have a sub group which is looking at prioritising and highlighting areas of attention or where adjustment is needed for the dredging plan.

On vegetation – we reviewed the tender specification, which is very comprehensive, and supported the approach. We have advised the need for an increased priority with regard to offside vegetation.

On Strong Stream notification – we are generally positive about the proposals that were being proposed and remain closely involved as the trials are undertaken.

Where needed we have formed sub groups to look as specific issues in greater detail (these groups report back up to the entire group). In particular there is a sub group that explores issues relating to canoeists and another looking at pinch points that restrict navigation.

There is a huge breadth of topics that we can become involved in and I’m confident that we can build on this solid start to further add relevant advice that affects the decisions and directions that the Trust takes now, and in the years ahead.

As we enter our second year, among the next major topics that we will be discussing are the Minimum Safety Standards first introduced by British Waterways in 2008. The Trust wants to make sure they are fit for purpose and we look forward to being involved in the challenge of making sure that they are relevant and meet the needs of both the Trust and waterway users. There is a lot to do and we have only just begun!

I would urge anybody who is interested to look at the Trust website where we post our minutes shortly after our quarterly meetings.

via Canal & River Trust Features | Boaters’ Update.

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