This page includes summaries of completed investigations and will be updated as cases are completed.
Case No -1127 Complaint about the repairs to the towpath and leased buildings.
Mr R has a long lease with the Trust for a boatyard and surrounding area. In September 2019, a sink hole appeared next to the tow path, investigations revealed that some pipework had collapsed causing the sink hole and the issue had caused a further problem with the corner pillar of the building, leading to fears that the canopy of the dry dock may be undermined. The result was that the dry dock had to cease operating while repairs were undertaken to the culvert and the dry dock. It was then found that one of the dry dock gates needed to be replaced. The Trust completed all the works in October 2020.
Mr R complains the Trust is deliberately attempting to destroy his boatyard business. He believes the Trust need to demonstrate a boatyard business is unviable at his historic canal site to continue with their surrounding property development. Mr R says that as a tenant of the Trust he has been subjected to on-going unfair treatment, harassment, and intimidation. He says the Trust is a registered charity but completely disregards its own published charitable aims. At the conclusion of the work Mr R argued that as a result of the way the repair was done, he is unable to operate his business safely and has declined to re-open. Mr R wants the Trust to put the culvert back to the way it was prior to the repair and to pay him business losses as he has not been able to fully operate for over a year.
The investigation concentrated on the way the Trust had organised the repair, the time taken to complete the work and communication issues.
The repairs took a considerable time because of issues with the project and the impact of coronavirus on the Trust’s ability to complete the work. The Trust has accepted there were delays in completing the repair work at the dry dock and has apologised for this. I concluded the delays were not, as suggested by Mr R, a deliberate move to make the business unviable, but were the result of a series of unfortunate events, predominately, but not completely outside the control of the Trust.
The Trust is satisfied the dry dock can be safely fully functional as it is now and says it has no intention of redeveloping the land as it is a site of historical importance and the lease has over 30 years to run.
The Trust has confirmed that the work completed allows for the operation of the dry dock and has been carried out using sound engineering principles and with regard to the heritage of the area. It is confident that the business can now fully reopen and operate in the same way it did previously. Mr R has argued the repair is unsafe because a pressure chamber has been created, the Trust, using its technical expertise has explained this is not the case. I am satisfied that the manner of repair and the way it has been conducted has been with due diligence and expertise.
Regarding the compensation claim for lost business, I have no doubt that the business has lost money. The Trust is willing to consider compensation, upon the production of evidence to substantiate the loss. I regard this as perfectly acceptable, it is normal practice to request evidence of loss before making any payment and I urge Mr R to engage with the Trust to provide the information required.
It is clear there have been communication issues for some time preceding this issue and throughout it. Both sides need to commit to an open and honest relationship where issues are aired fully and discussed to work towards solution.
Mr R has a fifty-year lease with nearly 40 years remaining on it, which indicates that there is no plan by the Trust to redevelop the land within the future of the lease period. In addition, the site is of significant historical importance so redevelopment or sale would be very unlikely. Obviously, no one can see into the future or comment on plans in 40 years time, but for now I have seen nothing to suggest that any delays with repairs or other issues have been motivated by the Trust wanting to end Mr R’s occupation of the site. In fact, the very expensive repairs to the Dry Dock and the lock gates would suggest otherwise.
Case No 1069 – complaint about the position of a boat in a mooring and anti-social behaviour
The complaint was raised when the mooring manager asked Ms N to reposition her boat to the furthest point back within its berth. Ms N was concerned that this would reduce the passing gap of the canal and result in increased collisions with her boat. Ms N said that the canal was very busy at this point with pleasure craft and working boats travelling too fast and felt she was being put in a dangerous position. Ms N said she had been told by previous mooring managers to moor at the other end of the berth.
Ms N also complained that her complaint had been blocked by the mooring manager and she had been the subject of some anti-social behaviour from other moorers. She felt the mooring manager had not handled the situation well.
The dispute is essentially about health and safety. The Trust believed that being too close to the neighbouring boat is a safety issue and Ms N believed that moving her boat is a bigger safety issue to her own boat and other canal users. It is the role of the Mooring Manager to manage the available space at the mooring to ensure the safety of all boaters, moored or moving. In this case the moorers at adjacent berths have swapped their boats for bigger ones and this has created a problem. The Trust has asked Ms N to move her boat to the furthest easterly position of her berth to allow a safe distance between her boat and the neighbouring boat. The Trust says this allows a safe passing gap for other users of the waterways and they do not consider that will pose a safety threat to her or others.
The mooring rules that Ms N has agreed to, allow the Trust to dictate where the boat should be placed. On that basis, I must conclude that the Trust has the right to request Ms N to move her boat to a position of its choosing. Any email from a previous Mooring Manager would not alter this. It was clear this is a busy part of the waterway and I recommended the Trust should give consideration to providing better signage or other visible queues near the entrance to the moorings.
Ms N complains that because her complaint issues were not addressed at the time further problems arose. Ms N feels that anti-social behaviour towards her from other moorers was a result of the Mooring Manager, telling them she would not move her boat and they felt this meant she was blocking their craft replacements. Ms N said it took many months for her complaint to be taken through the complaints process, she believes it was blocked by the Mooring Manager and the complaints team.
I found there were failings in dealing with the issue effectively and the Trust says it has learnt lessons from this. The Trust has apologised for delays in dealing with the complaint but in view of the additional distress and inconvenience this caused Ms N I considered a small goodwill gesture should be made to recognise this.
Ms N says she has been given conflicting information about whether the Trust has an ASB policy. She believes it should have a policy and it should have used it to help her when she faced threatening behaviour from other moorers. She believes that the Mooring Manager did not follow guidelines when he chose not to follow up on her complaint of threatening behaviour on site. She says she has since found that the Trust does not have an ASB policy which she says must mean that no guidelines were followed when the mooring manager chose to do no follow up about her complaint of threatening behaviour on site.
The Trust does not have a specific ASB policy, their moorings team manages Anti-Social behaviour at its mooring sites, between customers or customers and staff/other individuals, under the Terms and conditions of the mooring agreement, namely sections:
8.3 You must not do or carelessly fail to do anything at the Mooring Site or in the vicinity of the Mooring Site which will: (a) pose any risk to the health and safety to individuals; (b) pose a risk to the environment; (c) cause damage or nuisance to any other person or their property.
8.4 Anti-social behaviour or abuse, verbal or physical shall not be tolerated towards customers, staff or any other individuals. A failure to comply with this condition 8.4 may result in termination of the Agreement in accordance with condition 14 and/or criminal prosecution.
I am satisfied the Trust has within its Terms and Conditions the ability to tackle instances of anti-social behaviour and its managers are best placed to deal with allegations of such behaviour. It is not clear if the Trust did take any action in this case with the individual concerned as confidences have to be maintained. However, it is disappointing that clear next steps were not set out to Ms N so there could be no confusion about next steps. I recommend that in any future cases like this the Trust clearly advise the complainant what next steps are and what action will be taken, if any. These situations can become emotive and it is important that there is clarity for all parties.
Case No 1112 – complaint about facilities at a mooring and upcoming work
This complaint started in May 2020, when the residents wrote to the Trust highlighting a number of issues with the mooring. There has been a long history with the Trust completing repairs in a piecemeal way and saying that major repairs will take place and then nothing happens. In November 2017, there was a meeting between the Trust and residents where the Trust explained the need to ensure that all water and electricity connections were compliant and a survey would be completed to assess the work needed and work, which would include the provision of these services and a new footpath, would be completed by April 2018. Although the survey was done the work did not start. The Trust had not done anything since then until this new complaint was made.
The issues all stem from the same point, that the mooring needs some considerable work to bring it up to proper standard in terms of health and safety and regulatory requirements. The clash between Trust and residents is about how this is done and how much input the residents will have into the changes and the process of change. For some residents they will view the work as an improvement, for others as an inconvenience and unnecessary and as taking away their choice of utility supplier.
As the landlord the Trust will have to make some decisions which some residents will not be happy with. However, it has a duty of care to put the safety of the residents first and to ensure its resources are used to best effect. During the complaint the Trust made improvements to the rubbish facilities and work started on clearing the towpath. Issues remain in relation to the supply of electricity and water connections. As there are strict regulations in respect of these utilities the Trust has a duty to ensure installations and connections are compliant.
To achieve the best outcome for all its imperative that the Trust and residents work together and cooperatively so the mooring improvements can be done with as little disruption as possible. There will need to be changes and some residents may have to change the way they store equipment, such as gas bottles, and use the outside space. The Trust needs to ensure all residents understand why they are being asked to change and what needs to be done.
My overall recommendation wass that the Trust and the residents work together to improve the facilities at the mooring. The Trust are the landlords who issue the mooring permits and so it falls to them to have the final say in any works to be completed and how the work will be carried out. However, it is vital the Trust remain mindful that the mooring is home to the residents, who should be kept informed of plans and progress. If it is necessary for any residents to take some action to allow the work to be completed, they should be given time to do that and the reason for the action should be explained. Communication should be open, transparent, clear and two way. There will not always be consensus but hopefully this will improve understanding and cooperation. The Trust should provide the name of a contact for any issues with the redevelopment and details of the water bill for the site.
Case no 1123-Complaint about the loss of facilities at a mooring
The complaint was raised by a group of boaters who were unhappy that waste facilities and a water point were no longer available at a mooring point. They argued the Trust had made commitments in 2019 to reinstate both the water supply and the rubbish bins and then reneged on these commitments. They did not accept the explanations provided by the Trust which they said were not reasonable excuses for not reinstating the facility. The group argued the lack of a water supply at the mooring has meant that some boaters have had to travel an extra four hours to an alternative water point and back. They were concerned about boaters having to turn round many times may be penalised by the Trust. They also complained about a lack of communication regarding Trust's decisions regarding these facilities. The group wanted the facilities reinstating.
The Trust says that taking all the circumstances into account it was unable to comply with the previous agreement. The group are also generally unhappy with the level of provision of facilities on the canal, arguing that the high number of users should be taken into account when deciding on the level of provision on the canal and the loss of facilities across the whole region. They feel the Trust should be reacting to the demand and not relying on general policy.
The Trust is not obliged to provide water or sanitation facilities, the decision to do so is discretionary. The Trust says it is committed to operating and maintaining a significant number of boaters facilities across its network for the benefit of its boating customers and is intending to undertake a strategic review on the effective and efficient provision of services to improve the overall offering to its customers. On this basis, the Ombudsman was unable to require the Trust to re-provide the bins and water supply at the mooring as requested.
The Ombudsman concluded that since both sides were led to believe that re-instatement was likely the issue was prolonged, which added to frustration for all. She considered the concern that boaters will be penalised by Trust enforcers because of the need to complete many turnarounds and seemingly returning to the same location many times to collect water or deposit rubbish. The Trust says it unable to provide a blanket assurance that boaters will not be penalised for travelling to and from these facilities. It says it generally reviews and considers 12 months of cruising behaviour, including overall range, turns and overstays, before any decision is made about whether the boater has met their licence obligations. The Trust says that solely moving to-and-fro between a couple-or-few facilities points over a licence period would likely not meet those obligations. Including visits to facilities in a planned, genuine journey that expands beyond a small part of the network, likely, could.
The Trust says that each case is unique, but they believe that the information already published provides the desired clarity to allow boaters to create a satisfactory cruising pattern. In addition it says as the published guidance also says, if an individual boater has any concerns or difficulties then they would always urge them to get in touch with their local Licence Support Officer at the earliest opportunity and they can provide additional, personal guidance. The Ombudsman recommended that the local Licence Support Officer should take account of any issues faced by boaters without a home mooring as a result of travelling to and from facilities before considering any enforcement action in regard to the continuous cruising rules.
In regards to better communication the Ombudsman concluded that the Trust should ensure that its website is kept updated to reflect whether the water supply has been reinstated at the mooring. The Ombudsman also found that the reference to Basic mooring on the website was misleading as it said, Customers at these sites are required to cruise to the nearest sanitary facilities, which can be up to 30 minutes away. This has now been removed since the distance is greater than this.
Case no 1118 – complaint about the Trust’s ability to manage the assets in its care, following the long-term closure of a lock, leaving the complainant stranded.
The complaint was prompted by the closure of the lock, in which Mr M was moored. He says he has been unable to use his boat in any way as there are no facilities for sanitation, refuelling and water. Mr M believes the issue was foreseeable and could have been avoided by early intervention when the problem first occurred some years earlier.
Mr M does not accept that the Trust has acted in accordance with its obligations to maintain the waterways. He says it has failed in its duty of care and has not followed rigorous procedures which could have prevented the problem occurring. He argues the problem was foreseeable and the time the lock was out of action does not fall in the bounds of ‘time to time’. On that basis he believes the Trust has not kept its side of the licence agreement and so the fair and reasonable resolution would be allow his licence to start from the date the lock opens and he has use of the waterways.
The Trust has refused as the Licence issued to boaters is Trust permission (granted by a permit with a fee and associated terms and conditions) for them to put and keep their boat on Trust water, the fee is not calculated on the basis of availability of the network to cruise. The network is 200 years old and subject to repair work, both planned and unplanned, that would potentially impact the enjoyment of any number of boating customers at any time. These network closures are referenced specifically in the boat licence terms and conditions.
In considering the complaint the ombudsman looked to see if the issue was foreseeable and if the time taken to complete the work was reasonable. Based on the information provided it did appear that the problem with the towpath was foreseeable. The issue had been reported some years ago and the Trust had completed a short-term repair in 2018, knowing a more permanent fix was required. The time taken to repair the issue was nine months, a portion of this was due to the Government lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, there was a period of 25 weeks prior to this when the work could have been completed. Both parties accept the issue should have been resolved in 5-6 weeks.
There were various delays, the Trust citing poor service from its contractor. establishing where the liability lay for undertaking the repairs, accessing the site due to the presence of a gas main, plus the need to prop the roof of the dry dock once they had ascertained the size and extent of the void, all finally rounded off by the Covid delays. The Trust accepts it did take a lot longer than expected to complete this project despite the huge amount of effort to manage the Trust's internal processes, its contractor and the dry dock lessee.
In addressing whether there has been any maladministration by the Trust in its handling of this repair the ombudsman considered if, had the project been better handled, the work could have been completed before the lockdown commenced. It seemed to her, it is more likely than not, that the work could have been completed before lockdown, had the contractors been better managed, which the Trust must accept some responsibility for. On that basis, she agreed that Mr M was inconvenienced by the delays in completing the repairs and that the lockdown was not the cause of most of that time.
Considering how the complaint was handled the Trust recognised there were delays in dealing with it and the overall time to resolve the issue was protracted and offered a goodwill gesture to recognise this. Mr M refused as it was not the resolution he had requested.
The ombudsman concluded that the problem which resulted in the closure of the lock was foreseeable by the Trust, the project to complete the repair was beset with problems and the complaints process was not strictly adhered to. On that basis she upheld Mr M’s complaint.
The ombudsman did not agree to the requested resolution, either for Mr M’s licence to begin when he was able to use his boat or for a refund of his licence to cover the months he has not been able to use his boat. This was because this is a breach of contract claim, which would be for the legal process not the complaints process. If Mr M wished to pursue this, he should seek legal advice on his next steps.
Regarding the complaints process the ombudsman did consider Mr M had been adversely affected by maladministration on the part of the Trust and recommended an award to acknowledge that. This was set at a level to appropriately compensate Mr M for distress and inconvenience suffered, by reason of the acts or omissions of the Trust. Both sides accepted the decision.
Case no 1111 – complaint about the refusal to clear debris in the canal which was unsightly and causing an unpleasant smell
This complaint stems from an issue with the canal which runs along the bottom of Mr and Mrs L’s garden. The complaint issues were exacerbated by their timing. The problem was first reported to the Trust at the start of a National Lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Mr L has COPD, which meant he was shielding, and unable to leave his house, making the garden his only available outdoor space. It was also the start of an unusually prolonged period of hot and sunny weather. These circumstances undoubtedly had an influence on the actions and behaviours of both parties to the complaint.
Mrs L was very distressed by the issue, she felt the Trust did not treat the problem with sufficient seriousness, in terms of the effect on themselves and the canal. She feels they were not taken seriously, and their concerns were dismissed. She would like the Trust to apologise for this and acknowledge the effect this had on them.
All parties agree there was a problem with the canal, although the extent and the severity of the problem is disputed. The complainant felt the issue was caused by debris, particularly large tree branches, which was causing a damming effect. They report this caused a build-up of algae and a thick green slime which caused a putrid smell. They were concerned the water would rise and cover their garden with debris and that the smell was damaging to their health. The Trust describe the canal as having a build-up of vegetation, they say a smell could not be detected, that it would clear itself and that it was not a danger to health or to the garden. They considered that clearing the vegetation was non-essential maintenance and planned to clear it in the autumn, circumstances permitting.
The problem was solved when a gentleman entered the water and using a heavy duty garden rake cleared the canal. Because of the safety and environmental issues, although understandable this action is not condoned. The apparent ease with which the problem was solved would undoubtedly only add to the frustrations felt by the complainant’s, who considered it the responsibility of the Trust to carry out this action.
The complaint is about how the issue was handled. The Trust has an internal complaints process, the aim of which is to resolve issues as soon as they are reported. If that cannot be done, then a formal response is given and if the complainant remains unhappy a senior manager investigates and responds. The first and second level responses were completed on time and contain all the necessary explanations and next steps, they also apologise that the customer has had cause to complain and say they empathise with them about any distress caused. However, in my opinion, they could have been avoided. Mrs L said on a number of occasions that she did not want to escalate the complaint, she wanted action to be taken. Had the local operational team taken the opportunity, when visiting the site, to call the complainant and provide an explanation and reassurance about the canal it is likely the numerous contacts to the Trust and other bodies may have been avoided.
The couple were distressed by the situation, they felt the Trust was not listening to them or taking their concerns seriously. They say that calls and emails were not responded to and this forced them to contact other agencies to get a response. Time invested by the Trust at the beginning of the issue would have avoided further distress and reduced time later spent by Trust staff dealing with the numerous calls and emails. While the Trust’s advice may not have changed and they would not have been able to clear the canal, a better explanation of this and reassurance as to the safety of the couple’s property and health would have showed real empathy to an elderly vulnerable couple in a distressed state.
The Ombudsman recommended that The Trust should formally apologise to the couple for the way they handled their complaint. This should include an acknowledgment that the way the Trust dealt with the situation exacerbated the issue and caused further distress.
Case No 1114- how the Trust dealt with a complaint about providing a boat licence to a convicted offender and if it should have taken more punitive action against the offender.
Mrs M contacted the Trust to say that she had found out that her neighbour was a convicted sex offender and was concerned that he was moored in an area with lots of children visiting. The Trust explained its position and offered to move Mrs M and her husband to another location. The following day the offender contacted the Trust to say he had been threatened by other boaters and had left the mooring.
Mrs M subsequently made a written complaint to the Trust. She explained the impact of discovering she had been living next door to a convicted paedophile had had on her. She found the situation extremely distressing and asked for a refund of her winter mooring fees, as she felt she should not have to pay to live next door to an offender.
The Trust responded and apologised for the delay in doing so. The Trust’s view of the issue was explained and they said that had the Trust been made aware of her concerns with the offender’s behaviour towards her earlier they could have assisted. The Trust was not prepared to refund her fees as they had not been in a position to do anything other than offer her a move of location. That offer remained open to her although the offender had since moved.
Mrs M was unhappy with this response, asked the complaint to be escalated and for a refund of six weeks mooring fees, which equated to the time she was moored next to the offender.
A senior manager at the Trust responded, setting out the Trust’s position and saying that a refund would not be made as the Trust had acted appropriately in the circumstances and could not have lawfully informed her about the offender’s criminal record. Section 17 of the British Waterways Act 1995 (the “BW Act”) sets out the circumstances in which the Trust may refuse to grant a licence. These are, where the applicant does not have a Boat Safety Certificate or valid insurance in place, and the boat either has a mooring or will genuinely navigate the network on a continuous basis. The Trust is legally obliged to grant licence applications unless one of the prescribed exceptions under section 17 of the BW Act applies. The boat licence is for the boat and apart from the individual’s contact details all information requested on the licence form are in relation to the boat, its insurance, its boat safety certificate and where it will be moored. This is because the information is relevant to the boat and not to character of the individual. The Trust has no need and no rights to ask questions about the individual applicant.
The Trust has no lawful basis on which to require all boating customers to provide it with criminal record data or undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service Check. If the Trust is informed about an individual’s criminal record by the police, or other relevant agency, it is not permitted to share this information with members of the public (including other boating customers). Doing so would breach data protection laws. It could also disrupt official processes and pose significant risks to the safety of individuals. It is the role of the police or probation service to assess if an individual poses a risk to others around them, it is for those authorities to pass on information to the relevant individuals.
There are no rules or regulations in place which mean that the Trust are automatically made aware by the police, the probation services, or an individual boater about an entry on the sex offenders register. If they do become aware, they have legal restrictions in place to prohibit them sharing the information with its customers or the public. The police have a statutory responsibility to manage registered sex offenders. All registered sex offenders are subject to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) procedures which aim to reduce the risk posed by offenders to the community. MAPPA is the process through which the police, probation and prison services work together with other agencies to manage the risks posed by sex offenders, and violent offenders living in the community in order to protect the public.
The Trust has explained that it fully cooperates with the police and local authority requests for assistance to keep track of certain boats, and to provide any information requested for investigations or safeguarding actions. In this case, when they became aware of the relevant issue, they made contact with the police to ensure they are aware of the boat’s location, so that they were able to take any steps deemed appropriate to safeguard the community around them.
The ombudsman was satisfied that the Trust had acted correctly in this case, it is not equipped to monitor compliance and it must leave that role to the relevant authorities. It was correct to advise Mrs M of this. The Trust could not have done what Mrs M wanted, because of its legal confines, and the ombudsman does not criticise it for that. It explained its actions and as the offender had already moved away from the area, and indeed the canal network, the delayed responses, while frustrating to Mrs M were not the cause of any further detriment.
Mrs M has outlined how distressing she found the experience of discovering that she was moored and living alongside a convicted sex offender. It is clear that what Mrs M wants to achieve is a change in the law. The Trust and the ombudsman are bound by the current legislation and must act within the boundaries set. On that basis, the ombudsman was satisfied that the Trust acted correctly in its dealings with the offender and it cooperated with MAPPA to ensure the correct authorities were aware of his location.
In considering how the Trust dealt with Mrs M when the complaint was raised the investigation noted Mrs M did not make a complaint about the offender’s behaviour until the day before he left the dock, which was too late for the Trust to take any action. In handling the complaint, the Trust was slow to respond to her letters which is disappointing, especially as Mrs M was clearly in a heightened emotional state. However, the Trust has apologised for this and explained the delay in the second response was due to the reduced staffing due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ombudsman was satisfied the Trust had fully explained its position and that it is not within its gift to do the things she requests.
In regard to the request for payment towards the cost of the medical fees Mrs M incurred the ombudsman concluded that the Trust should not make any contribution. The Trust has acted in accordance with the law. It cannot deny a boat licence to anyone because of their past history and it has no rights to tell others about an individual’s history.
Case no 1085 – complaint about the consequences of an aborted trip caused by the narrowing of a Lock.
Mr K complains that due to the narrowing of a Lock he is unable to navigate his Houseboat to a boatyard for its 10-year survey. Consequently, his barge cannot be surveyed and therefore he cannot get full insurance and peace of mind that the barge is structurally sound. Mr K attempted the trip in 2016 and since then has been trying to get a resolution or workable solution from the Trust.
Mr K says the barge had been a working vessel and had travelled the route for over 80 years. He wants the Trust to take some action to enable safe passage through the lock. Although the Trust has offered to help, he does not consider the options given offer real solutions and says he feels he has not been treated fairly. He pays a yearly fee to use the waterways and to moor his boat and he does not feel he is getting value for money.
As a resolution Mr K would like the Trust to complete work on the Lock to restore it to its original width to enable his barge to pass through. He estimates this to be about an inch and a half. He also wants to be compensated for the time taken to resolve the issue as he feels the Trust has allowed him to spend four years waiting for action when none was taken.
The Trust accepts there has been a narrowing of the lock width but considers the lock to be stable, the bowing of the lock is not listed as an active defect and so it is not scheduled for repair of any sort. The Trust believe they have proposed different viable solutions to Mr K which would assist him to transport the barge and complete the survey. He has rejected all of them and the Trust says the only solutions that seem to be acceptable to Mr K are those where the Trust carries the sole financial cost and responsibility (i.e. widening of the Lock to enable his passage).
The Trust does not accept that it has a statutory duty to enable the barge to travel through the network. The Trust quote section 105 of the Transport Act 1968 (appendix 1) and The Fraenkel Report 1975, to substantiate this. The relevant point is that that the Trust has a duty to maintain the cruising waterways in a suitable condition for the type of cruising craft that used the waterways in the nine months prior to December 1967. The Transport Act sets out the obligations on the Trust and defines the particular canal as a cruising waterway. Mr K’s barge is wider than the required size and so the ombudsman accepted there was no statutory duty to widen the lock.
The investigation found that the Trust was aware of the narrowing of the Lock prior to the aborted journey and had noted its website of the restricted size. Had the website been checked before the journey the trip could have been avoided. On that basis the ombudsman did not consider it was fair and reasonable to compensate Mr K for the cost of the aborted trip or any other costs claimed.
In regard to the way the complaint was handled, the ombudsman found the advice from the Trust had initially been that it would investigate and measure the lock. Once it had done this it advised Mr K it would not be completing any work on the lock and it accepted no responsibility for the costs involved in him transporting his barge.
The Ombudsman did not uphold Mr K’s complaint. The Trust is under no statutory obligation to provide passage of his barge through the particular lock. The dimensions of the barge are over the statutory capacity of the lock. The ombudsman accepted the Trust’s view that the cost of completing the work required to facilitate the passage was prohibitive, since this was the only vessel which had reported a problem and the Trust had to take an economic view of where best to spend its money for all users. The ombudsman concluded that the Trust had acted in a way that is fair and reasonable to all its users.