NBTA demands closure of overcrowded towpaths after lockdown easing


A busy stretch of the Regent’s Canal in Tower Hamlets, London, beside Victoria Park which currently has limited opening hours (this photo was taken before the lockdown).

As the Government announced a partial easing of the Coronavirus lockdown, the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) has written to Canal & River Trust (CRT) to demand closure of any canal towpaths where users are not observing social distancing or where the path is too narrow for people to stay 2 metres apart.

There has been a vastly increased use of the towpaths for running, cycling and walking since the Covid-19 lockdown began on 23rd March.

The increased use is having a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of liveaboard boaters whose homes are moored on the towpath and on the wellbeing of the public, because users cannot physically keep a two metre separation on narrow towpaths.

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Bunching and the volume of users are the problems. This puts both towpath users and liveaboard boaters at increased risk of contracting Covid-19.

CRT’s poster campaigns informing people to limit their use of the towpaths during the lockdown and to avoid stretches where boats are moored have been largely ineffectual.

The NBTA continues to receive many communications from its members expressing their fear and distress about this situation.

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The NBTA sent CRT a proposal on 3rd April 2020 with criteria for deciding how and when to close specific stretches of the towpath to protect boat dwellers moored on the towpath. This has been ignored by CRT.

The NBTA therefore demands that CRT takes immediate action until people in the UK are no longer required to observe social distancing to:

  • Close all towpaths within one mile of water taps and sanitary facilities for two hours each day (9am to 11am) to allow boat dwellers to access essential facilities safely.
  • Using the criteria that the NBTA sent to CRT on 3rd April, close any towpaths that have excessive footfall or cycle traffic and/or where social distancing is not being observed.
  • Continue to discourage the use of towpaths in general with the “Limit your use” message.

For more information contact 07985 183584 or 07928 078208 or 0118 321 4128 or email [email protected]

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