Bureaucracy on the River Severn
Whilst I have ‘Quicksilver’ down in Birmingham I thought I’d pop over to the River Severn one of the days and use the slip-way at Upton-Upon-Severn (see www.boatlaunch.co.uk
). To take a boat on the Severn you need 1. Third party insurance 2. Safety certificate (larger boats only) 3. River licence
Well, I’ve got the insurance (Basic Boat Liability Ltd - £39.00 for £2,000,000 of cover), I don’t need the safety certificate and the River Licence is available on a daily basis at £2.40 in advance or £4.80 if already in the water. The meaning of advance is complicated but basically means if you buy it at the soonest opportunity on the day or any time beforehand.
Please stay with me here, I’m getting to the point soon.
To buy it beforehand by post means that you need to decide when you are going on the river about 7 days in advance, to take into account postal delays and administration. This somewhat takes out the spontaneity of it all.
What I want to do is wake up on my day off, which can be in the week or at the weekend, take a look at the weather and decide to go on the river that particular day. No problem here, quite a reasonable thing to want to do I would have thought.
So, where do I get the licence? Answer: I can buy one from the lock keeper at Worcester. Well, NOT at a weekend though. In the week? Yes, but it would involve an extra journey of about 20 miles into Worcester AND you can not guarantee that the office will be open as it is not permanently manned. Nearest BW office in the West Midlands – Tipton, about a 2 hour round trip to the far side of the West Midlands for me. There is also an office in Warwickshire at Lapworth, about 40 minutes drive away. However both are CLOSED at weekends.
Right, telephone British Waterways Customer Services and ask.
Oh Dear! Not so easy.
At a weekend you can get a day licence from Gloucester Dock. Great! I’ve to drive from Birmingham to Gloucester to get the licence, then drive back up to Upton! How about telephoning and issuing a licence over the telephone and paying by credit card. No can do, as they need to see the insurance and you need to have the licence with you. And all for a £2.40 licence. So I say to the customer service person, “I could of course just use the boat without the licence.” She replies, “Well they do patrol the river.” “Great”, I reply, “I’ll get the licence from them.” “Sorry”, she says, “You can’t do that.”
Bingo! I think of a solution. I go out on the river whenever I want. The next day I send off my insurance certificate along with the fee (£4.80 because it was not in advance), and tell them that the day before I was on the river, I was unable to get a licence so here is my money. YESSSSSS.
NOOOOOO. “Sorry, you can’t do that.”
Here am I trying to be completely above board and ‘legal’ and they are not making it easy for me.
However the customer services person says that Upton Marina USED to sell the day licences. ‘Used to’ however is not much help. I can see why they stopped, too much administration and NOTHING in it for them.
Solution: Go to the private slip at Kempsey where the owner just takes £10.00 and asks no questions. If stopped by the river patrol (anyone ever seen them?), speak in a made up foreign language and strong accent – NO ENGLESI, NO COMPRENDI, this will be far too much trouble for them and they will just ignore you from then on.
British Waterways are my nomination to get the ‘RIBNET RED TAPE AWARD’ for 2002.
hates bureaucracy) Hart