CRT: ‘A good year despite floods’
DESPITE THE WINTER FLOODS and other emergency calls on its resources, the Canal & River Trust increased its spending on waterway maintenance and reduced unscheduled stoppages, according to its annual report for 2015-16.
It helps that this was the year that the £10m of extra annual government funding kicked in. The cash boost was partly offset by an expected reduction in commercial income after a one-off major property deal boosted last year’s figures. But, even after £3.8m went into emergency work including dealing with Pennine floods, culvert collapses and the Caen Hill towpath washout, there was still more than £5m extra spent on the rest of the network.
In addition to work on the navigations themselves, £10m went into towpath upgrades, thanks mainly to funding from partners.
This spending was reflected in an overall reduction in ‘assets’ (structures) in the worst two categories ( D and E) for condition from 14.1 to 13.8 percent; while the proportion of towpaths in categories A, B or C rose from 76.1 to 78.45 percent.
Total unplanned stoppage days fell by almost 300 to 630, with the Trust setting itself a target for 2016-17 of cutting this below 570. The only slight disappointment was a small reduction in the percentage of heritage assets in good or adequate condition, from 98.6 to 96.9.
A success story of the year was said to be community adoptions of sections of canal, which rose by 50 percent to 147 – with a target of 180 for next year. The number of Friends of CRT donating regularly rose from 10,000 to 16,000 (target for 2016-17: 22,500) and there were 482,000 volunteer hours worked (target 520,000).
Out of a modest increase in staff numbers (up 56 to 1,660), more than half the new jobs were on waterways maintenance and repair. Meanwhile, at the top, another three of the ‘old guard’ of former British Waterways directors departed, leaving Chief Executive Richard Parry with an almost all-new team.
Looking to the future, Mr Parry said in his report that “the potential transfer of the Environment Agency’s navigations to the Trust has been reinvigorated, with a joint project team formed”, and while sounding a note of caution about the need for CRT to fully Annual Report meet its responsibilities, he reported “renewed confidence that a single combined navigation authority may be deliverable”.
The year also saw a new Chairman appointed: Allan Leighton also looked to the future, declaring that “talk of decline is in the past”, and setting a challenge of getting the waterways “woven into the hearts, minds and lives of the public” so they “never again face the threat of closure” and instead fulfil their “incredible” potential for greater public good.