Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The hand that bites you...

Not a very happy start to the year for CRT; huge amounts of coverage around CRT's treatment of what for want of a better phrase we seem to be calling vulnerable boaters. This followed the Bargee Travellers breaking the story with three cases and the associated petition.

While we do not know the whole story in each individual case (and indeed it is difficult for CRT to defend their actions without breaching data protection and confidentiality rules), for me there are just too many of these stories knocking about over the years. Having worked with and represented boaters to BW/CRT over many years and based on the poor standards of customer service I get, I find these reports wholly believable.

CRT of course have subsequently admitted that they do not have any written policies about when to take vulnerable boaters to court. Not then a huge surprise then.

However just when the flames were subsiding a little, British Waterways Marinas Limited (BWML), the wholly owned CRT marinas operator, waded in with several gallons of accelerant, with a particulalrly grotesque eviction threat to an elderly couple who are long-standing residents in their marina in Poplar. The letter to the boater is quite explicit that the reason he's under threat of eviction is simply for complaining.

BWML subsequently changed their story several times as reported here in the local press and finally it seems had the sense to shut up!

NBW also reveals 'history' between the then BW and Mr Taylor who it seem BW took to Court in the past without  huge success.

Subsequently the head of BWML, Derek Newton has resigned. Mr Newton's signature is of course the one at the bottom of the letter referred to above. Whether this crass display of contempt for his boating customers had anything to do with his departure is just speculation. However BWML is not exactly a jewel in the CRT crown and as per the report on Narrowboat world it seems mysteriously unable to make a profit.

These latest events at Poplar are of course doubly damaging as behaviour like towards elderly longstanding customers is hardly going to attract more boaters to berth with BWML.

I have heard first hand of previous complaints about BWML contract changes, and also know that draconion changes have not been pursued by boaters because of the actual or implied threat of eviction from their berth.

So to me this is almost a non-story in the sense that I have seen many instances of what I would call of bullying by the BW, BWML and now CRT boating teams, often with apparent impunity and the seemingly tacit approval of senior managers. "People will have to suffer" of course. To know that they are carrying on about the same, apparently with no-one answerable is no surprise.

As I've said before many boaters are not going to feed the hand that bites them through charitable giving while stuff like this continues.

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