soundings march 2016 cover

From the Tiller

How quickly things are changing. From very wet and windy, but not too cold, to frosty, much more sun and cherry blossom and magnolia in bud, at least where we are. Also from settling in to post, to going to meetings with outside bodies and developing our policies in practice.

Within a week I attended a National Navigation Users Forum, (NNUF) a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) meeting with CRT, and another MoU meeting with the PLA. Being new to these particular meetings, I found all of them interesting and informative in different ways.

The NNUF was both an opportunity to hear the latest policy set up from CRT and a chance to meet new people with waterway interests and exchange views and stories. The CRT presented details of their internal changes of staff and internal set up, which seems much more streamlined and potentially more user friendly. A single example is the setting up of a simple system for licence applicants and licence holders to sort out their particular needs online and in an uncomplicated way. No longer is there a need for complicated forms and phone calls for everybody. They see the changes as being the end of the transition from the old BW into the new CRT. They recognise that the transition has not been an easy one all round. And they seem determined to work very positively with waterway users.

This was reflected in the MoU meeting between the RBOA and the CRT in the afternoon when we had very useful and positive discussions and I feel sure that the relationship between the two organisations is on a sounder footing and with greater understanding on both sides of our different views on some matters. It will be very interesting to see what comes of it in practice.

As part of both the meetings the newly risen again (3rd time of asking) idea of CRT taking over the responsibilities of EA waterways surfaced. This has literally happened in the last few days, and you will no doubt be seeing and hearing much more about it in coming weeks and months.

The MoU with the Port of London Authority (PLA) was a rather different kind of meeting, although with a similar outcome to some extent. Being a Port Authority, the sheer range of the PLA remit, commercial pressures and user needs are in many ways very different to an organisation like the CRT. However progress has been made, both in setting up lines of communication, and in understanding of what each can offer the other. We obviously confined ourselves to residential boating, and the effects of other river users and river bank situations upon residential boaters. I felt a greater understanding was achieved and also that communication lines had been improved. For this meeting Alan, Eve and myself were joined by our Tidal Thames Area Representative, Clive Wren, who could and did explain very clearly some of the specific problems on the tidal Thames. Again to give an example, the now infamous high speed boat wash
problems, the PLA have already addressed some of this, with reversion to 12 knot speed limits from 25 knots in most of the river. Again it will be interesting to see what comes of this meeting.

Our visit to London included the necessity of travelling on the Docklands Light Railway. I personally was delighted by the courtesy shown to all of us by some of the younger passengers on the trains. We were promptly offered seats on the crowded train with lovely smiles all round.

I hope all you cruisers can happily get moving this Spring, and the rest of you residential boaters can enjoy the outdoors in good weather. A very Happy Easter to all of you.

Mike Pritchard