Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Is This What a Privatised British Waterways Would Be Like?

Worsley is a potential honeypot spot on the Bridgewater Canal. Arguably the birthplace of the modern canal system and the first place where coal was extracted from underground mines and transported by boat - in this case to Manchester on the then new Duke of Bridgewater's Canal from 1761. Its also an interesting and pleasant spot in its own right with its village green, old packhorse bridge and plethora of black-and-white houses making it seem like a little piece of up-market Cheshire in urban Salford.

Boaters will know it for the "Packet House" (seen above); the Duke's original boathouse and the present-day dry dock. Its also the last attractive mooring place on the canal before Manchester city centre or the edge of the conurbation if heading south through Altincham on the Bridgewater's Runcorn line as well as being one of the few spots in Greater Manchester that I'd be happy about leaving a boat unattended for a few days. You can see why its popular with boaters.
So what does the Bridgewater Canal Company provide for them at this boating mecca? Well, apart from a few mooring rings partly buried in the overgrown towpath there'

If you pluck up the courage to unlock (with your BW key!) and open the unmarked door, and can negotiate the wet and slippery floor, you'll come across this:
One of three cubicles containing a toilet and a cold water tap and sink but no hand drying facilities. If nature calls after the hours of darkness, please note that the building is not only unlit - but appears to have no means of interior illumination whatsoever!

Nicholson's Guide mentions a water point. Its not obvious - but eventually I found it:

(Its the tap half way up the wall on the right in a room which presumably, in the absence of any other facility is used by boaters to empty their chemical toilets!) And that's Worsley sanitary station - a fine example of go-ahead, thrusting, customer-focused private enterprise!

OK, so BW's not perfect, but compare this to a typical sanitary station found on the publicly-owned network (let alone the superb clean, warm and well-lit facility at Norbury Junction with disabled loo and free showers).

Mind you, some people just won't accept that sometimes BW gets it right. Commenting to a fellow boater who'd just finished taking water from the tap in the toilet I said something to the effect of "Come back BW, all is forgiven") He gave me a strange look and said - slowly - "some of theirs aren't up to much neither". But then, according to its signwriting, his boat is based on the Barnsley Canal and as this closed in 1953 perhaps its not surprising if British Waterways is limiting its spending on providing facilities for boaters there at the moment.

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