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British Transport Commission: British Waterways



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Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

In 1955 the British Transport Waterways division of the British Transport Commission dropped the word 'Transport' from their title becoming British Waterways. British Waterways was subdivided into headquarters, four divisions, Caledonian Canal, Crinan Canal, Forth & Clyde, Monkland & Union Canals and Bridgewater & Taunton Canal and River Tone Navigation. The four divisions of British Waterways, each with engineering, traffic, stores and reservoir departments, were - North Eastern Division with a divisional office at Leeds. The North Eastern Division's engineering department was divided into districts, namely Aire District divided into Calder, Leeds and Goole Sections; Don District divided into Sheffield and Keadby Sections; Upper Trent and Soar District divided into Grantham and Upper Trent Section, Erewash, Nottingham and Cromford Section and Soar and Trent & Mersey Section and Trent District divided into Nottingham, Newark, Fossdyke & Witham and Chesterfield Sections with repair yards at Goole, Stanley Ferry, Newark and Meadow Lane. The traffic department had a Northern District with depots at Leeds, Sheffield/Rotherham and Wakefield and a Southern District with depots at Leicester, Lincoln, Newark/Gainsborough and Nottingham, within the traffic department there were also sections for carrying fleets and road transport. The Stores department had storehouses at Goole and Newark. North Western Division with a divisional office at Liverpool and charge of Weston Point Docks. The North Western Division's engineering department was divided into districts, namely North Lancashire District divided into Skipton, Burnley and Lancaster Canal Sections; South Lancashire District divided into Wigan, Liverpool, Manchester, Huddersfield Canal, Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal and St Helens Canal Sections; Weaver District with it's Weaver Navigation Section; Shropshire Union District divided into Chester, Ellesmere and Norbury Sections and Trent & Mersey District divided into Potteries, Stafford and Marple Sections with repair yards at Northwich and Wigan. The traffic department had offices at Manchester and Liverpool and depots at Blackburn, Wigan, Shipley, Keighley and Anderton with sections for Northern and Southern carrying fleets. The Stores department had storehouses at Northwich and Wigan. South Eastern Division with a divisional office at Watford and charge of Regent's Canal Dock. The South Eastern Division's engineering department was divided into districts, namely Lee District; Regents District which included Regent's Canal Dock; Watford District divided into Tring, Apsley and Brentford Sections with pile making workshops at Bulls Bridge and Marsworth; Warwick District divided into Hatton, Northampton and Oxford Sections and Rugby District divided into Hillmorton, Hartshill and Leicester Sections with a pile making workshop at Hillmorton and repair yards at Bulls bridge and Tyseley, a maintenance yard at Regent's Canal dock and a workshop at Bulbourne. The Traffic Department was divided into Midland District with a depot at Sampson Road and a traffic office at Hawkesbury, and Southern District with a depot at Brentford and traffic offices at Paddington and Bow, within the Traffic Department there was a fleet section and a medical services section both based at Bulls Bridge. The Stores department had storehouses at Bulls Bridge and Hillmorton. South Western Division with a divisional office at Gloucester and charge of Sharpness Docks. The South Western Division's engineering department was divided into districts, namely Severn District divided into Gloucester to Sharpness Canal and Gloucester Section, Severn Section and Sharpness Section; Birmingham District divided into Oldbury and Worcester and Stratford-upon-Avon Sections; Walsall District divided into Brownhills, Bilston and Stourport Sections; Kennet & Avon District divided into Devizes and Newbury Sections and South Wales District divided into Newport & Monmouth, Brecon and Swansea Sections with repair yards at Gloucester and Bradley. The traffic department was divided into Midland District with a depot at Birmingham and Severn District with depots at Gloucester and Worcester (known as Severn Depot) and a traffic office at Bristol, there was also a road transport department. The stores department had divisional stores at Gloucester and Bradley. The Caledonian Canal had a manager and engineer based at Clachnaharry, the Crinan Canal a manager and engineer based at Ardrishaig and the Forth & Clyde, Monkland and Union Canals had a manager based at Glasgow. The Bridgewater & Taunton Canal and River Tone Navigation were managed on behalf of British Waterways by British Railways, Western Region whose general manager was based at Paddington Station, London. By 1956 interest in the waterways and pleasure cruising was growing and the government appointed Mr H Leslie Bowes and a committee of seven to undertake an independent inquiry into the future of the waterways and propose measures required to achieve maximum economic use of the system. The Bowes Committee Report was presented to Parliament in July 1958. Having looked at both national and independent waterways they suggested three groups of waterways, the first totalling 330 miles, which they called Class A Waterways (of commercial use and to be developed), the second totalling 1000 miles called Class B Waterways (worth keeping navigable but not of much commercial use). These groups together formed the prescribed navigable system, the committee recognising other users including anglers and pleasure cruisers. The prescribed navigable system was to be put into good working order with profits from Class A being used for maintenance and improvement, while Class B, with financial assistance, was to be brought up to navigable standards. On Class B Waterways craft licences replaced tolls. A thirds group Class C waterways, totalled nearly 800 miles and were considered to have insufficient commercial prospects to justify retention for navigation. Following the Bowes Report, some waterways were abandoned while others previously threatened by the Rusholme Report of 1955 were reprieved; the Norfolk Broads in particular were picked out as being essential to the economy of the area. The British Transport Commission agreed to maintain Class A Waterways to their current standards, and to undertake engineering and financial surveys into the possibility of making the Grand Union a broad waterway from the Port of London to Birmingham. In 1959 an Inland Waterways Redevelopment Advisory Committee was set up to facilitate the redevelopment of Class C waterways. British Waterways encouraged pleasure cruising, especially following the Bowes Report. A hire fleet was set up with a new type of small cruiser designed by British Waterways, of which 28 were built, 18 larger cruisers were made by the conversion of old narrowboats. Trip boats were also built with 11 in operation by 1960 and in 1959 a zoo bus began operating in London. Also in 1960 converted carrying craft to be used for short cruises and 'entertainment' were operating on broad waterways in the London area and in the North Eastern Division. Yacht basins were established at Sat Pancras, London and Stourport and Worcester on the Severn and a series of cruising booklets, the first of their kind were published. Improvements to the system included the upgrading of many British Waterways properties including cottages as well as operational equipment such as pumping stations. Other modernisation included the building of welfare facilities for boatmen at Hawkesbury, Wolverhampton and Bulls Bridge and the addition of sanitary facilities at repair yards. Also the mechanisation of the busiest locks on Class A waterways. The Transport Act of 1962 reorganised the nationalised transport industries abolishing the commissions including the British Transport Commission/British Waterways. In their place independent boards were established, that for the waterways being known as the British Waterways Board.