Wednesday, 26 October 2011

British Waterways prefer to forego income rather than lose face?

Another boater and I were laughing about this earlier this week and a good joke is always worth sharing: BW's residential moorings at Engineer's Wharf.

Anyone who knows London Canals will know that the moorings in question are sited near Yeading on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Like many good jokes however the underlying truth is less comfortable and again goes to question the honesty or lack thereof with which the BW system of Moorings auctions is implemented.

A quick search on the BW moorings vacancies site using on key word 'Engineers' shows that vacancies at Engineers Wharf have been offered no less than thirty times and since 2009 and there is another current vacancy showing right now. Given there are twenty three berths on the site in total, that is a bit alarming.

So what are BW doing about it. I don't know for sure, but one thing they seem reluctant to do is to significantly drop the price of berths. The current advert show a reserve of a little over £4500 pa for a 60 foot finger pontoon and alright, two years ago the reserve price was £4948. This seems to have been dropped to the current reserve only in May 2011. But still it seems, no takers?

Part of the reason is of course that anyone who talks to boaters in the area will know that the word on the cut is still, don't moor there at any price. The adjacent estate is known as an unsympathetic place with what the Daily Mail might call anti social yobs and what I call bored youth. I had a considerable tale of woe from one boater who bid in good faith for the mooring a couple of years ago. He left within a week as his partner did not feel safe staying there alone. By the way his partner is no wilting violet but has experience as a pub manager/landlady so is not inexperienced at dealing with boisterous people...).

I could bang on about how some of us suggested to BW that the design and location of the original plans seemed at best optimistic and that they should have negotiated with the planners and developers for a more appropriate location for much needed residential moorings. As usual we were told that we didn't know what we were talking about.

The sadness is that this is another small example of how BW's failure to take the boaters advice and experience seriously led to another white elephant which BW have subsequently spent huge time and effort trying to make something of. I genuinely hope matters are improving at Engineers Wharf over the last year or so, because heaven knows, we need more residential berths on the network. (... and if anyone knows better than me about the current state of affairs and can paint a more current picture of Engineer's Wharf, let me know, (preferably a boater or another resident who lives there, as opposed to a BW PR person!))

The sad reality is that  whatever the situation now, BW were for too long too arrogant to admit they got it wrong and drop the price. It seems they preferred to leave berths empty over an extended period rather than loose face and take some much needed income for the waterways rather than none. We will see over the coming months if the remaining berths are taken or not now that the reserve has been lowered.

Another example of wasted opportunities to generate much needed income for the waterways and why we need some serious changes in BW management.

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