People on canal boat. Not reflective of the survey respondents who have lost faith in the trust

The Canal & River Trust says it will be doing what it can to deliver improvements after its annual boaters’ survey showed that overall boater satisfaction has fallen to 46 per cent from 54 per cent a year ago.

Damning figures released by the organisation show boaters are now more than twice as likely to have spoken negatively of the trust than positively, up seven per cent on the last survey (49 per cent spoke negatively in 2024). Underpinning these attitudes is a longer-term decline (since 2021) in belief that the trust is listening to and acting on the interest of boaters. Fifty seven per cent of respondents don’t believe the trust listens to boaters (up from 48 per cent 2023), 59 per cent don’t believe the trust prioritises spend effectively (up from 52 per cent 2023), and 40 per cent do not trust the trust to look after the canal network (up from 33 per cent 2023).

The organisation says it is greatly concerned to see the fall in boater satisfaction, and that the fall continues a downward trend since 2017. This follows its report in May 2023 that London and the South East is experiencing a drop in boat numbers – down by 7.1 per cent on last year

‘The trust is committed to doing whatever we can within our means to provide all of our boating customers with the experience and service they expect. This disappointing result confirms that we need to re-double our efforts to improve this,’ says a statement.

‘We recognise that a number of factors may have contributed to this decline in satisfaction – amongst them the number of stoppages due to the impact of the flooding that we experienced for several months in the winter, the increase in licence fees, and last year’s issues with grass cutting,’ the statement continues.

In response to this, the plan is to focus on ‘getting the basics right’. And what that looks like in practice is general upkeep and maintenance of the network. The trust says it’ll look at how to keep essential facilities in good working order and then communicate what it is doing more effectively, specifically around how it is spending and prioritising resources.

‘Whilst we will be doing what we can to deliver improvements, we know that you have experienced for yourselves the impact of extreme weather events on the network,’ the statement continues. ‘This is hitting us at the same time as a real-terms reduction in our government grant, despite several years of high inflation, and when we’ve been required to significantly increase spend on our reservoirs – now accounting for a significant proportion of our major works expenditure – to meet legally binding safety measures.

‘Our commitment is to listen to your concerns and tackle those areas that are most important to the boating community. We greatly appreciate your support and understanding as we do so.’

Key findings of the report include the fact that live-aboard boaters, whether they are continually cruising or moored, are significantly less likely to be satisfied than leisure boaters.

Against the backdrop of a wider cost-of-living crisis, concern about rising fees and equitable charging between licences featured prominently among comments in the survey.

Continue reading about the Canal and River Trust.

Image courtesy of Canal and River Trust website.

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