Reports about London’s infrastructure being unable to cope with the increasing number of people living on boats in and around the capital has prompted River Canal Rescue (RCR) to voice concerns over the high level of call-outs it receives to attend poorly-maintained boats with faults not covered by membership fees.
“The standard and condition of boats in this area is causing frustration for our engineers and owners who assume they won’t face any additional repair or equipment costs once they’ve paid their yearly subscription,” says managing director, Stephanie Horton.
“The vessels have had negligible maintenance or if work has been undertaken, there are so many modifications, repairs are likely to be expensive. We are expected to undertake all repairs or do a ‘quick patch-up’ job but this is not always possible, as it depends on how many systems – ie fuel, cooling, drive or water – are affected.”
RCR says the explosion in live-boards, as evidenced by the recent Canal & River Trust Survey which showed there are 57% more boats in the London area (outside of the Thames), is putting pressure on its business.
Stephanie continues: “Each of our five engineers serving London has to attend some 300 call-outs per year, which is a high proportion for such a small area. After analysing the mileage, fuel, parking costs and exorbitant fines when they run over, congestion charges and the number of repeat call-outs, we are considering how to best to meet the challenges presented by this community.”
Key issues for RCR include;
- Boats used as cheap accommodation and therefore poorly maintained
- Many with no permanent moorings, so have to move every two weeks, and when a problem arises there are pressures to complete quickly.
- Many boaters have never owned a car so are unfamiliar with even basic engine workings
- Lack of good engineers available in London to take on work that falls outside the owner’s membership remit
- The number of forums and lack of qualified engineers in London causes people to try cheap solutions that often result in more expensive repairs
- Diagnosis and work is often questioned with engineers being told ‘xxx said the equipment should be like this’
Stephanie concludes: “We are currently investigating a series of solutions for London-based boaters which we hope will reduce the number of call-outs and costs associated with attending poorly-maintained vessels, this may involve inspecting boats before we agree membership cover levels or a surcharge for callouts within the M25 ring. By exploring the options, we can better protect our wider-based membership against the impact of spiralling costs.”