What it’s going to do
MOVING FORWARD INTO 2016-17, CRT plans to spend £ 53.4 million directly on maintaining its assets compared to £ 52 million in 2015-16, but will shift its focus – a reduction in spending on bridges, aqueducts and locks will be balanced by an increase on tunnels, cuttings, embankments and culverts.- Following several collapses in recent years, culverts running under canals will be a focus, with a programme of surveys and major work on several sites.
Trust engineers have also already produced the first draft of the winter stoppages programme for engineering work. The majority of closures fit into two periods: 1 November to 21 December and 4 January to 17 March, with the system opening up for a fortnight of Christmas and New Year boating in between. There are a few all-winter closures planned, on the Monmouthshire & Brecon, River Lee and Sheffield & South Yorkshire.
As usual in recent years, there will always be some routes open: work on the Rochdale, Shropshire Union, Birmigham & Fazeley and Caldon will not start until after the New Year, while the Leeds & Liverpool, Llangollen, Grand Union North, Huddersfield Narrow and North Oxford will have all their closures completed by Christmas. A handful of waterways including the Severn, Lancaster main line and Macclesfield will have no closures at all.
Looking at the wider picture, CRT will continue to progress the possible transfer of the Environment Agency rivers (including 100 site visits to understand the nature and condition of the EA’s navigation structures).
The Trust is looking at the possible role of the waterways (for example for freight carrying) in the Government’s Northern Powerhouse plans, while also being prepared to fight any negative impacts of those plans – for example, the upgrade of east-west rail routes might involve proposals to reopen the two disused railway tunnels at Standedge, which would affect the canal operation.
Chief Executive Richard Parry also told Canal Boat that CRT would “fiercely resist” the canals being disadvantaged by the belated effects of the 2003 Water Act which could threaten historic rights to water supplies.
As regards the Trust itself, one new Trustee appointment was expected to be announced “before the summer”, with two or three more in time for the September Annual Meeting.