Quarter of boaters unhappy with C&RT

June 2017 - Nearly a quarter of boaters remain dissatisfied with the Canal & River Trust's waterways and more than 20 per cent would not recommend them to others – Peter Underwood explores C&RT's claims about the 2017 Boat Owners survey.

At present we only have C&RT's interpretation of the annual survey of Boat Owners’ Views and it goes for a relentlessly positive spin on what, for most charitable or commercial organisations, be a somewhat depressing result.

According to C&RT, the survey 'shows that boaters' satisfaction with our waterways has increased in the past year, together with the proportion of boaters who would recommend our waterways to others and the number who think that the upkeep of the waterways has continued to improve'.

We don't have the full figures yet but there is no doubt that is technically true. In 2017’s survey, 76 per cent of the 1,160 respondents said they were happy with their cruising experience, but that is up from an abysmal 68 per cent in 2016 and still leaves a quarter of C&RT boaters unhappy.

C&RT's spin doctors claim this is part of an 'improving trend' and was also reflected in the numbers of boaters who would recommend our waterways to others, which 'leapt' from 69 per cent in 2016 to 78 per cent in this year’s survey. Once again more than 20 per cent – one in five boaters - would not recommend C&RT waterways is the other way of looking at the figures

As C&RT admits: “There was some regional variation with boaters most satisfied in Wales & Borders and least satisfied in London.”

That is something the Trust blames on 'the influx of boats putting pressure on the Capital’s waterways' rather than its failure to provide adequate facilities and mooring space.

In fact only four in ten London boaters would recommend the waterway to others.

C&RT says the number of boaters who 'feel they know our charity better' has crept up from under 50 per cent to 57 per cent and the number who 'feel more favourable to the Trust has climbed to a less than heady 59 per cent; up from 54 per cent last year.

There has also been a miniscule increase in the number of boaters who trust C&RT to look after the waterways, up from 63 per cent to 65 per cent this year.

A quarter of boaters are unimpressed with C&RT's efforts to keep the waterways in good, navigable condition but Jon Horsfall, interim head of boating said, with a blithe disregard for the substantial levels of dissatisfaction: “The Boat Owners’ Views survey gets right to the heart of how boaters are feeling about us. This year it’s great to see that boaters are happier with how things are, and that they would recommend our waterways to others.

“That’s not to say that there isn’t still work to do. The Boat Owners’ Views survey helps us identify where things aren’t going quite so well – for example in London where the growth in boating has put pressure on moorings and facilities. The work underway to create a mooring strategy for London will help to address many of the concerns that boaters have there.

He goes on to claim: “We’ve been listening to the feedback we’ve got from boaters and are involving licence holders in many of our planning decisions.

“We’ll be taking an in-depth look at the results to see what needs to be improved upon and what is working well so that we can continue to focus on improving the experience of boaters.”

The survey, which was sent to a third of boat licence holders, in March and April 2017 and C&RT promises the Boat Owners’ Views survey report will be published on its website 'in due course'.

In fact the high levels of dissatisfaction, especially among liveaboard boaters has just been demonstrated in an open letter to all candidates in the General Election from the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA).

It asks “If you are elected on June 8th, please would you commit to improving the way boat dwellers without permanent moorings are treated? It is vitally important that boat dwellers without permanent moorings who abide by the law should not lose their homes.”

The letter goes on to claim that C&RT has been carrying out a punitive enforcement drive against boat dwellers without permanent moorings and says: “Canal & River Trust's destructive enforcement policy needs to be stopped and this unaccountable charity needs to be reined in by whoever forms the new Government.”

Photos: (1st) Boats and boaters on the Leicester Line - three quarters are happy with C&RT, (2nd) London boaters by Victoria Park - only half are happy with C&RT, (3rd) Boats at Brewood on the Shroppie - rural idyll but one in five would not recommend C&RT, (4th) Young London boaters at a NBTA event - they are appealing to election candidates for help against C&RT.

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