Canal & River Trust responds to awful annual boaters’ survey findings

CRT responds to awful annual boaters' survey findings
CRT responds to awful annual boaters’ survey findings

The UK Canal & River Trust (CRT) says it will be doing all it can to make improvements following the publication of its annual boaters’ survey, which has revealed a decrease in overall boater satisfaction from 54 per cent to 46 per cent from a year ago.

The organisation says it is greatly concerned to see the fall in boater satisfaction, and that the fall continues a downward trend since 2017.

In a statement, CRT says, “The trust is committed to doing whatever we can within our means to provide all of our boating customers with the experience and service they expect. This disappointing result confirms that we need to re-double our efforts to improve this.

Annual boaters’ survey 2024 – Executive Summary

As part of CRTs commitment to regularly listen and respond to the experience of boaters across our network, they approached approximately one third of boaters to complete their annual survey to share their feedback during April 2024.

Invitations to participate in the survey are randomly selected from an available list of licensees. The returned survey response data was provided to the Trust’s agency research partner in order to analyse the findings and produce a full research report. The summary below represents the Trust’s assessment of the key findings of the research.

1,167 of those invited responded to the survey (circa 10%), made up of:
– Leisure boater who has a home mooring 52% (603)
– Liveaboard boater who continuously cruises 23% (270)
– Liveaboard boater who has a home mooring 16% (190)
– Leisure boater who continuously cruises 5% (59)
– Trade boater 2% (18)
– Other 2% (24)

The Trust believes that this provides a good representation of the boating community and hence the overall results can be expected to reflect the views of the different boaters across our network.

Key findings
The proportion of boaters who are satisfied with their experience has seen a significant decline since 2023, down by 8 percentage points to 46% (from 54% in 2023) – falling from a peak of 76% in 2017.

There is disparity across regions, with East and West Midlands performing relatively better than all other areas of the network.
Live-aboard boaters, whether they are continually cruising or moored, are significantly less likely to be satisfied than leisure boaters.

Overall, the most important driver for improving satisfaction can be seen as the maintenance and upkeep of the network, for both liveaboard and leisure boaters.
– 45% rated upkeep of waterways poorly in 2024, up from 38% in 2023
– More positively, the experience of engaging with Trust staff and volunteers was rated highly, with 71% and 78% of each group scoring ‘good’ or excellent’ for helpfulness, respectively.
– However, the availability of staff and volunteers to respond to queries was lower (34% rating it ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ for staff and 47% for volunteers).

Boaters’ verbatim comments offer other areas where improvement is required, largely echoing the survey results – with more proactive and preventative maintenance, wider sources of funding, and more boater consultation and communication suggested.

Against the backdrop of a wider cost-of-living crisis, concern about rising fees and equitable charging between licences also features prominently among comments.

Overall attitude towards the Trust has seen a similar decline since 2023, with net-favourability falling by -8% to 38% in 2024. Those positively advocating for the Trust have fallen by -6% to 22% in 2024.

– As with satisfaction, favourability in East and West Midlands is relatively more positive than other areas while leisure boaters are more favourable than those living aboard.
– Boaters are now more than twice as likely to have spoken negatively of the Trust than positively, up +7% (49% spoke negatively in 2024).

Underpinning these attitudes is a longer-term decline (since 2021) in belief that the Trust is listening to and acting on the interest of boaters.

– 57% don’t believe the Trust listens to boaters (up from 48% 2023).
– 59% don’t believe the Trust prioritises spend effectively (up from 52% 2023).
– 40% do not trust the Trust to look after the canal network (up from 33% 2023).

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