My Reply to Robin Evans Regarding the expansion of hire-boating on Kennet & Avon (West)

Dear Robin,

thank you so much for your illuminating reply.

I think that the fact that BW have presided over a more than 100% increase in hire-boating between Devizes and Bath in 6 years goes a long way to explaining congestion at locks, and other perceived problems on our otherwise tranquil and beautiful canal.

As much as I welcome visitors to this canal from the wider community, this seems like a poorly managed expansion of it’s use by inexperienced hire-boaters who have no investment in it other than as play-thing. The flow of drunken ‘stags’ and ‘hens’ zigzagging their way down the navigation in the last few years is a sorry sight to see, unattractive and often dangerous.

Surely BW should be encouraging the maintaining of a more balanced spread of the hire-boat fleet nationally and attempting to arrest the 40% decline of hire boats countrywide. This would go a long way to achieving their own goals in terms of reducing boating in the western K & A. It would support employment on the network generally and would demonstrate responsible and successful business practice. Please can you assure me that the current level of hire-boat fleet in this area represents a high watermark and will not be exceeded. Indeed perhaps even a reduction should be considered if any local outfit should move or cease trading?

Robin, I have to say there is general dismay about the letting of wharf at Bradford-on-Avon to yet another hire-boat firm. It is understood that they will operate the most trying of all hire-boats, the dreaded day-hire. More weekly or bi-weekly hires would be bad enough (particularly in the light of the figures you have provided) but the day-hire means crews who in general have never had the time to learn to manage their vessels safely or with consideration to other boaters.

It is also widely believed by both boaters and trust members that the new tenants do not intend to operate the historic dry-dock associated with the wharf at Bradford. At the most recent user-group meeting in Devizes, the issue of the lack of docking facilities was raised with particular reference to this dry-dock being lost. Your staff assured the meeting that the dock was to continue to be operated as a resource for boaters but I have recently heard from a senior trust member that this is not the case. Can you shed any light on this?

Warmest Regards

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