british waterwaysCanal & River Trust

AINA Representative: Mr Jeff Whyatt – Snr. Waterway Manager

510 – 524 Elder House
Elder Gate
Central Milton Keynes

Telephone: 01908 302500


Description of navigation

The Canal & River Trust (CRT)'s navigations are situated in both urban and rural locations. They include narrow and broad canals, rivers, lakes, lochs and reservoirs..

A brief history of the navigation

British Waterways (BW) took over the management and running of about 2,000 miles of canal and river navigations in 1963. Five years later, after a lengthy review, the Transport Act 1968, classified waterways into three groups, which are still used today. Commercial Waterways are principally for the carriage of freight; Cruising Waterways are to be available for cruising, fishing and other recreational purposes; and Remainder Waterways are to be maintained as economically as possible but with due consideration for health and safety. Improvements can be made to the last group provided the cost is not covered directly by BW but can be found from other interested parties, such as local authorities, local trusts and private business or individuals.

In the late 1970’s the towpaths were opened to the public; prior to that access had been by permit only. There is no public right of way along towpaths except for some statutory designated footpaths but since that time BW has encouraged a greater use of the extensive network of towpaths for walking, fishing, cycling in some areas, and for educational purposes for parties of school children.

BW comes under the control of the Department of the Environment and is financed in part by Grant-in-Aid from the Government. Users now contribute substantially to BW through licences, mooring fees etc. and BW’s other business activities also contribute to its funding.

From 2012/13 Financial year the Canal & River Trust will operate within a contractual framework with Government (Defra). This contract has been agreed for 15 years, taking the Trust forward to 2027 with much greater financial stability than ever before.

The Government have agreed to a review in 2021/22 ‘to examine the ongoing public benefit case for government funding beyond 2026/27’.

Plans for the future

The certainty of funding from Government upto 2027, the ownership of it’s £1/2 billion property portfolio transferring to the Trust alongside the ability to independently fundraise for it’s charitable objectives and aims position the future much brighter than at anytime in the waterways history.

The logos of the Trust are shown below with the strapline that will be increasingly prominent along the waterways from 2012.


Navigation statistics

Length/area of waterway

More than 2,000 miles  (3,200kms) of towpath and waterway

Number of locks

1,549 in use






21.95m (72ft)

21.95m (72ft)

22.3m (74ft+)


2.13m (6ft 10ins)

4.34m (14ft 2ins)

4.56m (15ft 9ins)


1m (3ft)

1.37m (4ft 6ins)

1.37m (4ft 6ins)


1.83m (6ft)

2.4m (7ft 10 ins)

2.4m (7ft 10ins)

Narrow canals
Ashby, Ashton , Birmingham Canals. Caldon, Chesterfield, Coventry, Dudley Canals, Grand Union (North of Long Buckby), Macclesfield, Oxford, Peak Forest, Shropshire Union (Part) + Llangollen Branch, Staffs & Worcs, Stour Bridge, Stratford on Avon, Trent & Mersey (Part), Worcester and Birmingham.

Broad canals
Aire & Calder Navigation, Calder & Hebble Navigation, Erewash, Fossdyke Navigation, Gloucester & Sharpness, Grand Union Canal South, Kennet & Avon, Lancaster, Leeds & Liverpool, Monmouthshire & Brecon, New Junction, Ripon, Shropshire Union (Part), Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation, New Junction, Tinsley, Trent & Mersey (Part).

Caledonian Canal, Crinan Canal, Forth & Clyde Canal

River navigations
Kennet, Avon, Lee, Ouse (Yorkshire), Severn, Ure, Soar, Stort, Trent, Weaver, Witham.

Tees Barrage, London Docklands.

Requirements for Boating

Boat Safety Scheme


Third Party Insurance