July 2018 - The Canal & River Trust’s annual survey of a third of its boating customers always gives the charity’s public relations team a bit of a problem digging out something positive and this year they have had to resort to as claim that boaters say mental and physical well-being were both the biggest motivation for, and benefit of, boating. A useful echo of the Trusts switch of focus from navigation to general ‘well-being’ - even though there is nothing in the press release to justify the claim. Peter Underwood and Allan Richards have been taking a closer look.

The Trust carefully avoids offering comparisons with last year’s survey, claiming that: “This year the sample included every new boat licence holder over the period, who had not been surveyed in 2016 or 2017, so is not be directly comparable with previous years. Statistical nonsense, of course, and the spin doctors decide that an average over the three-year survey cycle is the way that makes C&RT look the best possible.

“This year just over three-quarters of the 1,760 respondents said they would recommend the waterways to other boaters (76% - three-year average 74%).” said C&RT.

Back in the real world the percentage who would recommend the waterways to other boaters fell from 78% last year to76% this year – a 2% fall and that was before C&RT introduced it’s second corporate re-brand and change of direction away from the needs of boaters

C&RT claims: “74% rated the overall upkeep as OK to excellent (3YA 75%), which may be reflected in their propensity to recommend.”

Those looking at the real figures find that the satisfaction with upkeep has dropped 3% since last year – from 77% to74%, and that was before many of the large scale and long term closures now hitting the system.

Even C&RT’s measure admits that the 70% of boaters satisfied with their experience of cruising the waterways has dropped a percentage point against the three year average of 71%. In reality it is down no less than 6% on last year – a dramatic drop and, once again, this was before recent closures across the system.

C&RT blithely admits that: “In general around half of all boaters feel they know the Trust very well or a fair amount (53% - 3YA 53%)” but this hides a 4% fall in the number of boaters who agree they know the Trust – surely somewhat worrying six years into C&RT’s existence?

Although C&RT alleges that the drop in the numbers that ‘feel more favourable to the Trust’ is just down 2% (54% - 3YA 56%), the real figure is down 5% from last year from 59% in 2017 to just 54% this year.

The survey says that 62% trust the charity to look after the waterways and even C&Rt admit this is 2 per cent down on its 3 year average, but the year on year figure is a 3 per cent fall. It is almost inevitable the change of direction towards public well being and away from navigation, along with a very visible spend on re-branding with the new logo, across our waterways will see even that abysmal trust rating fall further next year

Jon Horsfall, Head of Customer Services at Canal & River Trust, said: “The Boat Owners’ Views survey is an important snapshot of how boaters feel about both the Trust and their experience of the waterways they boat on. It’s been inspiring to see how boaters find boating a great source of mental and physical well-being. However, with only just over half of respondents both knowing and feeling favourable towards the Trust, we do acknowledge that there is more to do.

“The survey findings help us focus on the issues that matter most to boaters and act on the things that are most important to them.”

That’s almost exactly what he and his predecessors have been saying every year once the survey shows once again how C&RT is failing to gain boaters’ trust and support. (Now, where have we heard that before?)

Once again the Trust has failed to provide a full version of the survey so we can see the details for ourselves, saying: “The Boat Owners’ Views survey report will be published on the Trust’s website in due course”.

Photos: (1st) The CRT Boat Owners Survey, (2nd) Widebeam owners considerably less happy with CRT.

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