Whilst its not exactly a CRT National Council meeting, or indeed a sub committee, I am also invited to attend the annual National Users Forum. The last gathering at The Bond in Birmingham took place on Wednesday 18th April and the following are the key points which caught my interest, outside those already reported in my last National Council notes.
On the subject of these notes, I see that my last set reached nearly 800 readers, not counting the various cut and paste versions I know are shared around. I find this really encouraging as I feel I am reaching a fairly wide interested audience, including some of the business licence holders who voted me into office in the first place!
Julie Sharman (COO)
Health and Safety reportable issues have remained at nil YTD, which is great, but there has been a small increase in asset related incidents such as slips and falls on the towpaths. This isnt so great and is being assessed to see if there are any themes which can be addressed.
- The reservoirs have all been fully recharged during the wet winter and with high ground water levels things look good for this season.
- The knock on issues following the tragic death of Charlie Pope, a student in Manchester are current with appeals being made to fence off the entire city centre section of the Rochdale Canal. This risk has parallels in other major cities like Leeds and Birmingham and attendees are asked to counter what is seen as a potential over reaction.
- An explanation of the new 6 region structure was offered.
- A longish section was devoted to the forthcoming rebranding and the Trusts reasoning was offered. My apologies if some of my observations creep in here - there have been so many on going discussion on the topic its hard to remember who said what, when.
- First and foremost the Trust is a navigation body and without a functioning navigation there can be no spin off benefit for other users. Navigation therefore remains core to CRT and is reflected in the ongoing spending plans.
- However, a very sizeable portion of income comes from the Government Grant and there is an existential threat to the function of the navigation network if it is discontinued when the current guaranteed term comes to an end. The Govt discussions start in just 4 years time and we are talking £53m pa, which is more than the license fees we currently pay.
- Securing future Govt funding is therefore very high on the CRT to do list.
- The key to securing future funding is for the Trust to have broad public recognition and currently this recognition is growing far too slowly among the non boater users.
- The Trust therefore seeks to reposition itself as a "Waterways and Wellbeing" charity and drive up the awareness among the 50% of the population who have a CRT waterway nearby. For the non boaters we offer beauty, a Natural Health Service plus safe, healthy and sustainable travel routes.
- The current branding is well recognised within the boater community, but isn't cutting it in the wider social media environment. The most successful logos are circular and work much better so a change is needed as one small part of this process.
- The London Mooring Strategy has been generally positively received
- There will be some guidance issued on which waterways are considered unsuitable for unrestricted wide beam movement
- Any individual issues will be addressed by communications with boaters concerned.
- Enforcement seen as a last resort
- License evasion is at an all time low of 3.1% (3.8%) - London was higher at 5.1%
- Growth in boats in London Area grew by 150, but this is a much smaller rate than previously (over 400pa)
- Evidence seen of boats moving further out of London.
- There were 400 more CC licenses issued last year nationwide.
- License review starts April 2019 with prompt payment discount reduced.
- April 2020 sees the width criteria start to be applied
- Electric and Historic Boat discount criteria still to be reviewed.
- Business boat owners to be engaged.
- Licensing link to home mooring ruled out
- Approaches to busy areas to be researched.
- Medical adjustment requests received at rate of 20 to 30 per month - a standard questionnaire has been trialed. Volume figures are published annually.
- Business licenses now on line saving time and cost. It is expected that satisfaction levels will rise as seen following the introduction of the on line leisure renewal.
- The online mooring strategy is being worked on and is expected in the summer of 2018.
Peter Walker - Technical Support
- Technical Support is very outwardly facing dealing with things like major infrastructure projects, Acquisitions and Hydrology.
- Currently busy with HS2 which will reach Curzon St Birmingham in 2026 and Phase 2a in 2027.
- 2a construction will be active 2020 to 2026 and has 50 points of impact on CRT either live waterways or potential restoration sites.
- We are asked to be eyes and ears for the Trust to ensure that nothing unexpected is implemented in the construction phase. Please be alert to anything untoward and report it in immediately.
- The various phases will have a significant impact but CRT is doing what it can to lessen impacts such as sound deadening fences.
- We are assured that the various CRT impacts will not result in multi month route closures with most being overnight or 24 hour stoppages as beams are swung into place.
Stuart Mills - Chief Investment Officer
- in 2012 CRT inhereited a £615m endowment of assets to provide income.
- Since then the aim has been to grow capital and enhance investment income.
- The aim is to generate an 8% return with modest amounts of income volatility.
- The portfolio has changed over time to improve returns and simplify management.
- In 2011/12 investment income was £21.7m and this has risen to £30.4m in 2017/18
- Assets have grown in value to £850m
- The investment portfolio has grown well and is delivering increasing amounts of income which are available to be spent on operational improvement projects.
Simon Bamford - Asset Improvement Director
- £60m was spent last winter plus between £10m to £15m of third party money (mainly on towpaths)
- In house staff undertook 1000 work packages spending £17m including 257 emergency projects and 180 gates made / fitted.
- A further £30m was spent on contractors at 160 larger projects.
- £7.8m was spent on dredging in 38 sites.
- £1m spent grouting locks
- Repairs to lock 15 at Marple became a wider "Marple Makeover" where £2.5m was spent including aqueduct safety railings.
- £1.4m spent on offside vegetation control
- 40,000 dog and litter bins emptied
- 27,000 customer service visits made
- Middlewich overtopping - was attributed to paddles being left open (not asset failure).
- 3000 cubic feet of material was washed away
- Solution agreed with contractor and access agreed along canal bed.
- Active Badger set in south bank will be accommodated.
- The narrowing of Filance Lock on the Staffs and Worcester was addressed last winter.
- £500k will be spent addressing the bottom lock at Hurleston next winter.
- A priority list is bisng worked through to tackle the known pinch point locks.