Sunday, 24 November 2013

First Boat through Lock 12

Yesterday lock 12 on the Aylesbury Arm was finally opened to traffic.  The first boat to come down was nb Gloriana.

In the evening Aylesbury Canal Society held their AGM and following supper they were treated to a presentation by Jewff Whyatt, the Senior Waterways Manager for the South East. A cynic might suggest that the opening of lock 12 a few hours before this was no co-incidence. For Jeff to give up his Saturday night for C&RT was a privilege which I think all members appreciated. His message was generally upbeat but smacked a little of jam tomorrow, particularly with the planned spend on major works illustrated here.
The inevitable question from the floor was - Why did an eight-week repair take eight months and cost £800,000?
At this point  I am afraid the answer was as predictable as the question and included such platitudes as we have learned a lot.   As Jeff reminded us at the start of his presentation, BW  took over management of the canals in 1962.  After  50 years they might be expected to be well into their leaning.
I was reminded of the commercial panacea that was popular when I was working: outsourcingThis is the process where a set of activities are transferred from in-house to a contractor who claims he can do it cheaper.  The company then washes its hands of all supervision, monitoring and management with the result that it all goes sour. At this point another contractor  is brought in and the cycle is repeated.
Today we took a walk up the canal to look at lock 12. Unfortunately it is still not accessible on foot as the towpath is blocked off.  However we could see what looks like a cheap ply-wood repair on the bottom gates.  I hope that we are mistaken.
Lock 13 - Red House - has also undergone some repairs to the bottom gate. But it still took three of us to open it which for the single-hander we were helping was hardly an improvement. C&RT have taken the opportunity to install a long access path to the lock with a gently gradient. This, I assume, is for wheelchairs and/or cycles.
Statistics relating to canal visits vary considerably but whichever figures you use they all show that about 95%of visits are made by people who do not contribute directly to C&RT's coffers. I have queried before the spending priorities  exercised by C&RT and do not apologise for returning to the subject.
Above lock 13 there is a hole in the towpath where water is leaking out of the canal noisily. Over the eight months that the canal has been closed was it not possible to carry out some preventative maintenance here? Or  are we waiting for this to qualify for the Major Works budget?

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