The government now realises that the inland waterways need looking after as an environmental heritage. A Commons Committee of M P's had to call in the National Audit Office to understand the true state of British Waterways finances. The canals are already suffering from lack of investment and maintenance due to DEFRA's lack of interest.
It is clear now that there are many other groups, apart from boaters, that benefit from the waterways. The majority of users are in fact local people walking or jogging along the tow path, fishermen and cyclists a fact not recognised in BW funding. BW cannot achieve 'self sufficiency' by charging boaters, running pubs and marinas. The cost to boaters for moorings and licences would become prohibitive.
It has been suggested that other departments should provide support. The department of Culture should consider free entry to the few Museums that BW struggle to keep open. There may be some benefit in getting the Transport department involved to encourage 'greener' freight movement on the waterways. I wonder which department would help with the cutting back of all the large bushes and trees that are reducing the navigation. Then there is the lack of depth. Originally the canals were 4 feet deep, now only 2 or 3 feet in many places. Mean while the waterways are being used more now by holiday makers and explorers enjoying the countryside than ever before and may it continue.