10th July 2020 – Thames locks service update

According to the EA River Conditions web page some level of assisted passage may now be available at 31 of the 45 locks. The River Conditions Webpage is providing daily updates of lock service issues and other problems affecting navigation – see the blue panel down the RHS of the page. https://www.riverconditions.environment-agency.gov.uk

Where assisted passage is now available, the EA are endeavouring to meet the Customer Charter targets as per the published Lock Keeping Service Hours .
However, coronavirus issues (which affect lock staff just as much as anyone else) have inevitably compounded the problems which may result in Self Service, and, as there are currently no volunteers providing cover at mealtimes and weir duty absence etc. this is inevitable. Holidays, sickness and other requirements also complicate the problem and, although there are now 15 summer relief staff this is fewer than in previous years due to financial constraints.

A lot of effort has gone into providing safety arrangements at locks so that EA staff and boaters can safely use the facilities without risk from the general public who have been using the towpath and lock throughways in increasing numbers – most of the fencing appears to be intended to overcome this potential threat to safety.

The remaining 14 locks are expected to be providing assisted passage soon but all the hydraulic locks are now operating on public power when on Self Service. We have also been seeing a dramatic improvement in response time to sorting any lock failures that do arise. A hydraulic failure at Days lock earlier this week was repaired and the lock back in service within a few hours.

Worst case scenario is that boaters may find locks on Self Service even during published duty hours. Best case is that you will find increasing evidence of assisted passage as the new arrangements settle down.

Regrettably, there have been several instances of abusive behaviour towards lock staff – and sad to say that some of this has been by boaters. Lock staff have been instructed to walk away from any threatening situations and have due regard for their own safety, so such behaviour may well result in a manned lock becoming unmanned !

NOTE that Teddington is now open for passage between 0700 and 2100 daily.

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Boating and Fishing on non tidal Thames

Boating and Fishing activities on the non tidal River Thames require an Environment Agency Licence – watch our short video.

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4th July 2020 – EA Navigation Update

The EA are now providing some level of assisted passage at 31 of the 45 Thames locks and work is progressing to provide service at the remaining 14 as soon as necessary safety and Covid 19 specific measures are in place.

During periods of Self Service all locks with hydraulic power are currently able to be  operated using Public Power. In the event of a public power failure, it will normally be possible to operate by hand winding.

Passage through Teddington Lock is now available daily between 0700 and 2100 but the lock is closed for navigation between 2100 and 0700.

Latest information re river and service issues is available on the
EA River Conditions webpage

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***Boaters should read the following information published by the EA on 3rd July 2020 which provides further details and goes some way to explain the difficulties and challenges the EA are currently facing with regard to lock manning and other services during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Full text of EA Announcement 3rd July 2020

Assisted passage
We now have measures in place which enable us to provide assisted passage at 31 of our locks along the non-tidal River Thames. These are: St Johns, Grafton, Radcot, Northmoor, Shifford, Pinkhill, Eynsham, Kings, Osney, Abingdon, Culham, Clifton, Days, Benson, Cleeve, Goring, Whitchurch, Caversham, Blakes, Sonning, Marsh, Hambleden, Marlow, Boveney, Romney, Old Windsor, Bell Weir, Penton Hook, Chertsey, Shepperton and Teddington. Special arrangements are in place for Teddington, as outlined here.

We are working hard to increase the number of sites where we are able to provide assisted passage with adequate protection for anyone using, visiting or working at the site, from catching or spreading Coronavirus, in line with Government’s requirements.
This is not always straightforward for a variety of reasons. All our sites are different in terms of the relationship between working and public areas. Some, and the routes between them that our staff must take, are in very close proximity to each other, or run through each other. Providing appropriate measures, especially at sites which attract significant numbers of daily visitors – walkers, runners and cyclists as well as boaters of all types – and where legally protected public rights of way exist, is challenging. But we know how important assisted passage is in terms of your overall boating experience, and providing the best levels that we possibly can is a priority for us.

The physical measures you may have seen at our sites, such as fencing and signage, are an indicator of the effort involved, but just an indicator. Physical measures have to be backed up with appropriate systems and processes and we are making good progress. This includes, from 1 July until the end of September, a further 10 seasonal lock keepers in addition to the 3 already employed, to boost the number of staff available, and provide additional cover when our permanent staff are on a day off, on holiday, or unwell.

At sites where measures are in place to enable assisted passage, even with the recent additions to our lock keeper workforce, assisted passage may not always be available. Sometimes, due to colleagues being absent for the reasons given above, our lock staff will need to carry out duties at more than one site. They may also need to carry out other important tasks on site which may need to take priority over assisted passage – operating weirs to manage water levels for example, or dealing with an incident. Occasionally, given the sometimes limited opportunity for carrying out this work due to weather conditions or the flow of traffic through a lock, basic site maintenance such as cutting grass might need to take priority. We know that the presentation of our sites is as important to you as it is to us, and would ask you to respect our lock keeper’s decision if they sometimes focus on this work to get the job done during their normal working hours before the lock gets busy, or rain falls.

Please also be aware that some of our staff or their families are currently shielding. At these sites, and at others where it is simply not possible to put adequate protection measures in place, we may not be able to offer assisted passage. Even at those sites where we can, it may occasionally be necessary to stop doing so at short notice. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case – the sheer number of people on site, or damage to some of the protection measures, such as fencing, for example. We have already experienced this at some sites. If we need to withdraw assisted passage at any of our sites we will not do so lightly, but we will not hesitate to do so if we must. Protecting everyone at our sites from coronavirus is our priority.

Camping and lock and weir fishing

We are keen to re-open these facilities where we can, but we need to ensure we are able to put in place appropriate measures to minimise the risk of contracting Coronavirus for our customers, our staff and the general public.  We also need to make sure we can adhere to government guidelines. Due to campsites and lock and weir fishing sites being in or near to our restricted operational areas, and the additional measures required to make the sites safe, we cannot offer these services for now.   

We are committed to providing you with the best possible boating experience we can this summer, with the resources available to us, and in the extraordinary circumstances we all find ourselves in. We understand that the limitations on the levels of service we are able to provide may be a source of frustration, but please do be patient with, and respectful towards our lock staff who are doing their very best to provide the best service possible under extremely trying circumstances – as is everyone in our team.

We will be updating the information on GOV.UK to reflect the latest position.

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10th June 2020 – River Update and Membership Offer Extended

River Update
The whole river is now open for navigation and most hydraulic locks, although at  present Self Service only, are on public power.
The EA are well advanced in installing safety measures at locks, such as barriers and signage, with the intention of restoring some level of assisted passage as soon as possible. We will update you as soon as we can but please observe current restrictions and see notices at locks.
For latest information see riveronditions.environment-agency.gov.uk

Overnighting still not permitted
Staying on board overnight is still not allowed unless your boat is your primary residence. This is in line with Government guidance relating to relocating to second homes or caravans, and boats fall within this guidance. This will be reviewed as Government guidance changes.

Membership Offer Extended – Two years for price of One
During the continuing coronavirus emergency our two years for the price of one offer will continue indefinitely.
If you are not a member, please consider joining us and lend your support to our mission – to encourage and support the Environment Agency to meet the challenge of ensuring the future of Englands greatest inland waterway – the non-tidal River Thames.

JOIN NOW – www.tmba.org.uk/register

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28th May 2020 – Thames Navigation Update

The non-tidal Thames is now open for leisure boating over the entire waterway although some local issues remain. All locks between Oxford and Teddington are on Self Service with public power available in most locations. Full information about local issues can be found on the EA River Conditions webpage HERE

The EA Thames waterways and operations teams are to be commended for the way they have risen to the challenge of restoring the river for navigation in recent days.
The speed with which issues have been dealt with, including over the Bank Holiday weekend, has been remarkable.
The improvement in information flow to boaters has been particularly welcome and has given rise to increasingly positive comments on social media. Well done !

The TMBA encourages all boaters to assist enjoyment of the river by continuing to observe the various coronavirus guidelines, particularly with regard to social distancing and careful attention to safe practice when operating locks.

The TMBA River Etiquette for Boaters can be found HERE

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