Questions C&RT have yet to answer

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

Towards the end of last year's boating 'season' the way in which Brentford lock – the exit from C&RT waters onto the tidal Thames – is operated came into question, according to one concerned boater.

Three incidents of inaccurate or incomplete information being provided and delays being caused that shortened the time available to transit the tidal Thames were reported to the Trust.

At that time the Port of London Authority (PLA) had only recently been complaining that boaters on the tidal Thames were ignoring navigation orders and putting themselves at risk.

Towards the end of October Ken Churchill, who is no stranger to C&RT intransigence (the charity recently settled out of court a claim he made against them), wanted to move to Environment Agency Waters on the non-tidal Thames by way of PLA waters: “I needed to lock out with enough cruising time to proceed up the River Thames and through Old Windsor Lock before its official closure on 1st November,” he recalls.

He was told by C&RT that Brentford Locks were closed Monday October 24 until Thursday October 27 and choose to lock out early on October 23.

But it turns out that he needn't have made the early start, after all. “Saturday 22nd I went on line and discovered that Brentford Locks were not listed for closure from Monday to Thursday 24 – 27 October. It had been a phone endurance test to get the Sunday booking so I made no attempt to change this booking.

“At 7.10am on Sunday I entered Brentford Lock and waited for the light to improve. At 0715 the lock keeper told me to “ If I wanted daylight I should have booked later than 0700. Exit the lock.”

“I was not aware that I could have booked after 0700 however I waited outside Brentford Locks until there was daylight enough for a safe passage upstream to Teddington.”

A day later, Ken has since learned another narrowboat arrived at Teddington Lock to be told that Brentford Locks were closed. The Teddington Lock Keeper advised the boater that “If she is unable to lock into Brentford she should cruise down to Limehouse.”

This despite the fact that the boat owner has contacted C&RT, who informed her that work was being carried out which did not affect use of Brentford Locks.

Cruising downstream she used 'Face-book' to seek advice and was informed of the risks of cruising to Limehouse without VHF and without authorisation.

On the advice of a boater she moored up in the tidal approach to Brentford Locks before dark.

A few days after that incident Ken was assisting a solo female boater through Brentford lock who asked him to crew her Narrowboat Mansard when locking out from Brentford to Teddington on October 27.

He says: “I noticed a large telegraph size tree trunk in the entrance of Brentford's South Lock. The Lock keeper, Angie, phoned to say she would be ten minutes late and arrived 25 minutes later and opened the top gates of Brentford's South lock.

“As I walked down the tow-path towards the locks Angie opened the top gates of Brentford's North lock and started clearing a smaller log from that lock entrance.

“Assuming Angie was clearing this smaller obstacle to enable access for Narrowboat Mansard I asked Angie which lock we should use. She pointed to Brentford South Lock where the telegraph pole size tree trunk was diagonal across the entrance of the lock.

“We entered Brentford South Lock, pushing the tree trunk to one side and Angie closed the South Lock top-gates on the tree trunk and commenced draining down South lock.

“With the tree trunk wedged between the partially open top gates water was entering the top gates faster than South lock could empty.

“After several attempts to open the bottom gates Angie was asked to refill the lock and remove the wedged tree trunk. This she did followed by locking out Narrowboat Mansard for passage up the river Thames, half an hour late.

“Half an hour lost from the restricted tidal passage with the risk of the tide turning before reaching Teddington Lock.”

Ken put all three incidents in an email to C&RT Customer Services in the first week of November.

He recalls: “C&RT replied that 'someone will phone me next Monday. Some five months later no one has phoned me.

It seems to me C&RT management should address these issues before a serious accident happens.”

Photos: (1st) Thames Lock South at Brentford., with a road bridge beyond, (2nd) View from the road bridge at the tail of Thames Locks.

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