Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Sharing the cost of the waterways

 Well CRT's latest survey of boaters attitudes to sharing future increased licence costs is interesting.  Currently, boat licences contribute only 11% of the cost of running the waterways which is probably a much smaller proportion than most boaters think.  CRT makes a reasonable case for needing the increase licence fees above inflation over the next few years but what is the fairest way to do it?  That's what the survey asks.

Basically there are three approaches with some minor variations within each.

1. Bigger, wider boats pay a greater increase, presumably because they take up more space

2. Those without a home mooring (mainly so called continuous cruisers) pay a higher rate , because they put more strain on the network and don't currently have to bear costs of mooring

3. Everybody shares an equal rise in costs.

I can just imagine all the continuous cruisers being up in arms at option 2, especially those who opt for it as a cheap way of living in an urban area..  A lot of these boaters don't have a lot of cash and many of them (the majority) live aboard because it's cheaper than living on land.  On the other hand they do put a significant extra burden on CRT especially in places like London.  My past experience as a London CRT volunteer made that very clear.  

There are really two types of "continuous cruisers".  Those who  travel round the system all year, and those who don't want to so only moving short distances back and forth to comply with CRT rules.  Should they be lumped together?  If not, how could you recognise the difference in licence fees.  The survey makes no such distinction. I've said it before, often to CRT that boaters resident in an urban area and not moving much ought to have different licences, reflecting their added burden and also banning them from true 'visitor moorings'.  The way urban towpaths have become clogged with boats effectively limits access to genuine visitors from outside.

Nobody likes paying more and whilst I have some sympathy with folk who are hard up and need somewhere cheap to live, I still think that those who cost CRT significantly more in support and wear and tear on infrastructure and facilities and take up continuous bank space should pay more.  People who moor on line in proper CRT paid moorings have to bear the cost and we who moor in marinas do too.

What do you think?  If you are a boat licence payer, make sure you do the survey.


Tom and Jan said...


Is revenue to be raised as a flat rate (ie, a license fee) or user pays (ie, distance travelled and infrastructure used). Or a combination of both.

Currently all boater pay an annual license fee (eg, flat rate). Those boaters who have a home mooring then pay an additional fee, part of which goes to CRT. Boaters without a mooring arguably use the infrastructure more than those with a paid mooring and yet pay less.

The majority of boaters without a home mooring fall into one of two categories. Those who require a home mooring, but want to avoid the cost and those who genuinely cruise the network.

If the user pays principle is to be adopted then continuous cruisers should pay more as they use more of the infrastructure. One potential advantage of adopting this would be a move by "non genuine" continuous cruisers to paying for a mooring. The potential disadvantage is an increase in the loss of revenue through unlicensed boats and increased license enforcement.

Some rough, back of the envelope, calculations on my part suggests if the license fee for boaters without a home mooring was increased by 50% that would raise the revenue from license fees from 11% to 12%. This figure doesn't factor in any increased enforcement costs. However raising all license fees by 50% only increases revenue to 17%.

My conclusion is, altering boat license fees doesn't significantly improve CRT's revenue.


Anonymous said...

Of course CRT receive more income from boaters than just that from licence fees. I think it's about 44% overall. This does not include the potential impact of other income which might disappear if there weren't any boats to see or the waterway environment was very poorly maintained. For instance, refreshments purchased by non-boaters from waterside businesses. Insufficient visitors could cause those businesses to fail then CRT would lose the rental income. However I can't see any easy answers and believe ongoing government support is vital. As many taxpayers enjoy visiting the waterways for free, why should they not contribute a little. Marty (boater)

Anonymous said...

Boats that cruise help reduce the need for dredging. Maintenance is needed for anything outside whether it is used or not. Misuse causes damage and cost. Lack of routine maintenance costs through expensive emergency repairs. Todbook reservoir is costing 15 million to repair because of the lack of maintenance (Parry should have resigned after that). Arguably the increase in boats in London means additional income from those waterways which would cover any increase in services costs. Having been through I can’t say there are a huge amount of services for boaters there. Bottom line is that the way CRT was set up would always lead to this sort of crisis point. The waterways are a public asset beyond their use by boaters and should be paid for from taxation (like roads and parks).