The Inland Waterways Association has welcomed the announcement by Canal & River Trust that it will increase its spending on dredging over the next ten years.
In a speech to the AGM of the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators on 23rd November, John Dodwell, Canal & River Trust trustee explained that a ten year dredging programme was being planned, effectively doubling the current annual £5 m spend on programmed dredging. He went on to explain that two key elements will be looked at by the Navigation Advisory Group. One will be to increase the ratio of spot dredging to main-line dredging. The second will be to change the “failing threshold” measure. At present if 70% of the channel cross section in each km meets the depth criteria, then it is deemed Ok. On this basis, only about 7% of the total mileage fails. It’s proposed to raise this so that 90% of the cross section in future must comply – it is estimated that this will double the failing lengths, but this is actually more in tune with what users say.
IWA had previously criticised British Waterways for the lack of dredging. As far back as July 2010, in answer to a series of detailed parliamentary questions placed on behalf of IWA, the Waterways Minister Richard Benyon MP had explained that British Waterways had plans to only dredge between 30 kilometres (km) and 40 km of its waterways during 2010-11, at an estimated cost of £4.5 million. He went on to explain that British Waterways estimated that 291 kilometres of its canals and rivers required dredging. IWA subsequently gave evidence on this gap to the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways inquiry into the formation of CRT.
Speaking of the announcement of the increased funding, Les Etheridge, IWA national chairman said:
“IWA has been steadfast in seeking to demonstrate the need for increased funding for navigation on the canal and river network .It has been clear anecdotally for many boaters that there has not been enough depth of water for navigation, and we have sought to highlight this with hard evidence. We are delighted that this campaign has resulted in a commitment for additional spend on this important area”.