Narrowboats on hire will now be able to return to the upper Thames tideway, following the lifting of a ban by the Port of London Authority – but whether they will again be seen on the lower length through central London (as pictured) is yet to be decided.
After an incident last year in which a hired boat was swept on to a pier, the PLA said it had not realised that hired narrowboats were using the tidal river at all, that they were “not currently licensed to a suitable level” and that hire companies should stop them from using the tideway.
However, a working group of representatives from the hireboat operators’ organisation the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators (APCO) and the PLA has now agreed “clear, safe and practical rules and guidelines” to enable the upper reaches from the Grand Union at Brentford to Teddington Lock to be cleared for use by hired narrowboats. These guidelines include extra construction requirements to reduce the likelihood of a boat flooding; improvements to documentation provided; and enhanced handover procedures to hirers, and should be ready in time for hire companies to prepare for this year’s main hire season. APCO chairman Ann Davies pointed out that this section is part of the Thames Ring (which also includes the Grand Union and south Oxford canals) and that “we are pleased to be able to promote this holiday cruise once again”.
Meanwhile, discussions continue regarding whether hire craft can be allowed back onto the busier, faster-flowing length of the tideway from Brentford to Limehouse.