EA begins boasting about spending on Navigations

December 2017 - Within days of Canal & River Trust admitting that it had, finally, made an official bid to take over the Environment Agency Navigations the Agency itself has made a belated attempt to highlight its investment in its East Anglian waterways, as Peter Underwood reports.

Taking a leaf out of Canal & River Trust's incessant claims about the amounts it is investing in standard winter maintenance jobs, the Environment Agency (EA) now claims: “Boaters are to benefit from a £1.4m investment into Anglian Waterways, as the Environment Agency launches its latest improvement programme.”

In fact the work started a month ago and is pretty standard, investing around £4,000 a mile - half as much per mile as C&RT's £8,500 a mile for winter works but on waterways with far fewer structures per mile.

What the EA calls its Capital Investment Programme sets out the repairs and upgrades being made across Anglian Waterways’ 353-mile network.

It says eight locks across its most popular rivers are set for refurbishment which will 'ensure the structures remain in good working order for years to come'.

The work covers what the EA says are among the busiest locks on its Anglain waterways; at Wadenhoe, Woodford, Titchmarsh, Orton, Cotterstock, and Ashton on the River Nene, and Eaton Socon and Brandon on the River Great Ouse, which see around 7,000 boats a year pass through.

Work started in November and continues throughout the winter months, avoiding the peak boating season to minimise disruption for those on the river. The investment programme will also include de-shoaling work on the rivers Great Ouse and Nene. This will remove underwater gravel that builds up naturally and can hamper navigation.

Also included are investigations – but no actual work - into improving the Nene’s landing stages, where boaters can disembark, and upgrading control panels at the locks to the same model, making them consistent and easier to use and maintain across the region.

Neil Pope, Anglian Waterways assets team leader at the Environment Agency, said, once again echoing the familiar C&RT mantra about 'repairing and restoring the nation’s 200-year old waterways:' “Our precious waterways are an important part of our nation’s rich heritage and beauty. They are a national treasure, valued for their contribution to our environment, our health and wellbeing, and our economy. We’re proud to play a part in caring for them, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

“Maintaining them to a good, safe working standard is one of our top priorities. We invest money very carefully to ensure the best value for every pound we spend. This means our waterways will continue to offer outstanding value to the many, many people who enjoy them every year.”

The EA says the two most popular rivers in its network – the Great Ouse and the Nene – attract more than 7,000 boaters and an estimated 1.1m other visitors every year, yet another echo of the millions C&RT claims visit its network.

So is this the Environment Agency saying 'look we can do all the things C&RT does' because it fears losing its navigations to the Trust or is it waterways managers at the EA showing they are 'on message' with C&RT and can still do the job if their navigations pass to the Trust?

Now there's an interesting question. And here's another - does the EA see the takeover as a done deal already?

Photos: (1st) Wadenoe Lock and Sluice gate By Ian Paterson, CC BY-SA 2.0,
, (2nd) Lock moorings downstream of Eaton Socon lock.

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