Meg Lee Chin

Dear Attendees of the Friends of Regents Canal Meeting,

I would like to propose a philosophical change to the problem of dealing with congestion in London. This would be to focus upon incentives rather than enforcement in getting boaters to spread out. Boaters are currently clustered around popular hotspots. This clustering is creating unhappiness, hardship and even health problems for some residents.

In contrast there are mile upon mile of long stretches remaining empty such as in West London. These stretches are missing vital facilities such as mooring rings, water and other services. With minimal or even zero investment these areas could be developed.

CRT state that they are adopting a tougher new enforcement policy to alleviate congestion. However their operating plans suggests that congestion is in their financial interest therefore there is little true incentive to decrease overcrowding.

Currently they have allocated less than £1.1M annually toward towpath and mooring ring expenditures. In contrast they are spending £16.4M on administration and £10.8M on "Costs not attributed to activities". With so few resources going toward these areas it is unsurprising that boaters are clustering into Central London.

In section 2.6 of CRT's 2013-2016 operating plan they cite investment into "on-line mooring controls" (enforcement) which they anticipate will bring them an additional 14% net income annually from boater income.

Therefore it appears CRT are relying upon increased congestion in order to meet their financial requirements as many boaters are forced into costly marinas. In the meantime both the boating community and residents are suffering ill health and hardship. Stress is accumulating. There is much finger pointing and understandable anger all around.

The 14% anticipated extra boating income is unlikely to represent large numbers of boaters. Marinas charge perhaps on average £600 per month . Canal licences cost about £60. With a 900% increase it won't take many boats to achieve that 14% (roughly only 1.4%). This indicates CRT are not really anticipating large numbers at the outset and the alleviation of congestion is likely to be minimal. Boaters income currently only represents 19% of CRT's income. (So 14% x 19% = 2.6% )

So is the 2.6% increase in CRT’s income worth the high social cost? I say "No" and would urge residents and boaters to work together in persuading CRT to seek alternatives for both increasing income and alleviating congestion as their current plan is unlikely to achieve much in the way of either.

Further CRT have last year failed to achieve targets for attracting visitors to the towpath as required for their government funding. There is good evidence that boat presence attracts cyclists, walkers, fishers and especially women who say they feel safer.

Incentivizing boaters to spread out makes sense and there are many cost effective ways to do this. These include;

  • Replacing one enforcement officer with one events co-ordinator to work in conjunction with the boating community to hold fundraising events in these underused areas. These could be fun, family events aimed at raising money for boater services and facilities. Boaters could invite the public for tours of their home. Children could learn about boating and history. This would both raise awareness and attract donations for mooring rings, waterpoints, etc.
  • As an offset to the current restricted 24h/48h/7 day short term stays in Central areas, boaters could be allowed 30/45/60 day longer stays in these designated underused areas.
  • In contrast to winter mooring where boaters pay extra for the privilege of mooring for 5 months without moving in winter, CRT could provide 5 months without moving at no cost in designated underused areas.
  • CRT could provide 10-20 mooring spaces in designated underused areas for the creation of communities of boaters with stays of up to 6 months in exchange for work on the development of that underused stretch of towpath. CRT would agree to put 50% of boaters licence fees into a fund for facilities. These facilities would grow year upon year.
  • CRT could provide long term leases along with low rent to service boats providing water, shopping, diesel, mini market, clothes or other facilities useful to burgeoning small canalside communities.
  • Currently private owners of offside canal property currently must pay CRT 50% of the cost of the nearest Marina mooring space should they wish to rent their canalside space to boaters. If CRT were to lower their fees to 10% a lot more property owners would be renting space for boaters to moor. 10% of a lot is better than the 50% of close to nothing which CRT are receiving.
  • Though I currently have no access to enforcement cost figures, I believe we can safely assume it to be a large figure. Legal costs alone would likely be quite substantial. An incentive based approach to alleviating congestion would reduce these costs.

    An incentive based approach to the problem of congestion makes sense financially. By alleviating hardship for both boaters and residents, it makes sense socially. In attracting new visitors to the towpath CRT can fulfill their requirements for continued government funding.

    Instead of enforcement, enforcement and more enforcement, how about incentive, incentive and more incentive?