Saving canals

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When I get a moment, I must find out how many boats have been down that way in this warm, sunny July, the peak of the holiday season. The warmth will have encouraged the vegetation, but I suspect relatively few boats have been through. And only two boats entered the Royal through Dublin in July, even though two openings were offered.

Apart from giving artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative about the value of the canal tourist industry and the abiding love of boaters for the canal, using canals helps to keep the weed down.


4 responses to “Saving canals

  1. Are boats the only users of the Royal Canal and Barrow line?

  2. There’s a bloke here called Peter who claims he can walk on water, but I don’t think that will do much to keep the weed down.

    You may not be aware that Waterways Ireland has been actively improving facilities for walkers, anglers and cyclists along the canals. I am sure that boat-owners will be keen to support these efforts by paying some modest annual contribution to Waterways Ireland. The locals are not always appreciative, though.


  3. Hi BJG, I think that most regular users of the Grand Canal would agree that Spring and Autumn are the busy times for boat traffic with high Summer being on of the quietest times of the year.
    Your point is analogous to measuring boat traffic on the Shannon in January an using this figure to advance your argument.

  4. That pattern of usage is not ordained by any god, international agreement, national statute or external agency. It’s the result of Irish boaters’ using the canals for cheap parking over the winter, then heading to the Shannon in spring and back in autumn. In England, canals are a destination in themselves, heavily used in the summer and with large hire firms.

    The Irish pattern of usage means that canalside towns and villages get little business from boaters (except where there are liveaboards, who form a separate market. There is a third market in owners of — often small — boats who potter up and down a few miles on Sundays).

    The canals are by far the most expensive part of the network: in 2012 (see WI’s Annual Report on its website) the Royal, Grand and Barrow accounted for 68% of programme costs and I suspect that they also account for a disproportionately high percentage of staffing costs (which are not broken down by waterway). I accept that maintenance of the infrastructure is more expensive, and that not all of it is attributable to boating; I would like to have better figures. But I think it’s pretty clear that the canals + Barrow don’t account for anything like 68% of boat traffic or of economic benefit, which makes that level of expenditure hard to justify, especially when the waterways budget is under extremely severe pressure.

    If folk really want to save the canals, they need to think of ways of decreasing the costs, increasing the revenue or increasing the demonstrable benefits to canalside communities. And one way of doing that last is to organise ppopular and successful events during the summer to get boats moving. There have been rallies on the Royal and summer festivals hither and yon, but much, much more is needed. As it is, Waterways Ireland could reasonably close the Shannon in the winter and the canals in the summer.


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