Capercaillie Cruisers recently announced they may have to consider quitting their Falkirk hire base because of increased levies from Scottish Canals. If this happens, it would make it very difficult to hire a narrowboat on the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals.
The Inland Waterways Association has also expressed concerns about this development and also Scottish Canals’ Rotate plans to make one of the caissons on the Falkirk Wheel fixed for use by tourists wishing to ride the famous boat lift, but not usable for narrowboats wishing the cross from the two canals.
This is really an unfortunate situation and I hope all parties can come to some agreement. The IWA, the charitable organization that promotes the waterways in the UK, warns that Capercaillie Cruisers is the operating agent for both ABC and Black Prince narrowboat hire companies, which means that if Capercaillie up sticks then effectively there is no narrowboat hire on these two canals. Of course this may all be negotiating tactics by the hire boat companies and Scottish Canals, which spent £1 million in 2016 to update and refurbish the rotating boat lift. It’s understandable that Scottish Canals wants to emphasize day trippers who only want the hour-long boat trip. It involves a ride up the boat lift, a very short ride just to the end of the Union Canal, a turnaround and back down the boat lift, never venturing onto the Forth & Clyde.
I hope that the caisson reserved for day trips would not be mechanically altered to prevent hire boats from using it. As much as I enjoyed riding the London Eye, I wouldn’t want the Falkirk Wheel turned into a carnival ride. It was created as a way to bridge the two canals. Hopefully Scottish Canals would free up the caisson should canal traffic require it.