For the first time since the advent of rail transport, the fortunes of Britain’s waterways are blooming with health

British Waterways’ annual report reveals a very healthy increase in self-generated income of more than 30 percent in just one year, placing one of the country’s oldest transport networks right back into the hubbub of modern commerce.

The public corporation, which cares for a 2,000-mile nationwide network of canals and rivers, has embarked on a period of unprecedented waterway restorations, which will see a total of 200 miles of waterways re-opened – and in one case newly built – by the end of 2002.

Commercial activity alone, in areas including property, telecommunications and leisure has seen a 33 percent income rise in 2000-01. British Waterways chief executive, Dave Fletcher, says: “The outstanding increase in our trading income is one of the engines driving forward the improvement of the waterways infrastructure.

“We have just embarked on a period of real delivery with our own ‘magnificent seven’ major restorations, re-openings and new build projects completed or nearing completion. We are on target and on budget. They show we can successfully bring about widespread economic, social and environmental improvements while conserving and enhancing our waterway landscapes and heritage.”

‘Waterways for Tomorrow’, the first Government policy document on canals and inland waterways for over 30 years, confirmed the important and expanding role that waterways are playing in regeneration. It acknowledges that imaginative waterway restoration breathes life and vibrancy into both urban and rural landscapes, attracting investment, generating a sense of community pride and providing the catalyst for widespread improvements.

The remarkable waterway revival endorsed by ‘Waterways for Tomorrow’ has already begun with the re-opening in May this year of two canals – the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal in Scotland, jointly 57 miles of restored waterways.

British Waterways chairman, George Greener, says: “Innovative partnership at all levels is the cornerstone of our success in delivering these key projects and in achieving the funding that will enable us to continue to do so. British Waterways’ unique and flexible approach, managing leading edge engineering and working with the public and private sectors, is making a real difference to the lives of people in Britain in the 21st century.”