Capercaillie Cruisers to cease trading

Boat numbers could be restricted at the Falkirk Wheel Boat numbers could be restricted at the Falkirk Wheel

Capercaillie Cruisers Ltd (CCL) is to cease trading at the end of 2017 following the break-down of discussions with Scottish Canals over future fees, a decision the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has branded as ‘very bad news’ for the future of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals.

However Scottish Canals says the company has been struggling for some time and while it has tried to be helpful, there are clearly major questions over its current business model.

CCL has provided narrowboat holidays on the canals since 2003 with the fleet consisting of Capercaillie boats and a franchise operation with ABC, Black Prince and Marine Cruises companies.

Owners Re-Union Canal Boats and Tim Ford have grown the business from 16 to 21 boats however they say recent negotiation of fees between the company and Scottish Canals to allow the boats to operate on the canals has led the board to ‘re-evaluate the company’s long-term sustainability’.

A company statement stated ‘the scale of the difference between current and proposed future charges meant that further negotiation could not lead to a satisfactory outcome’ and ‘proposed changes to leasing arrangements would open up potential liabilities in the future well beyond CCL’s resources’.

In addition, says Capercaillie Cruisers, Scottish Canals has placed restrictions on boat numbers at Falkirk Wheel and this has removed any confidence about growth and long-term sustainability.

In a letter to Scottish Canals, Les Etheridge, IWA national chairman, says Scottish canals need more boating activity, not less.

He writes: “The loss of the three fleets of boats operated by this company means that very few people will now be able to experience boating on these restored waterways. It appears that there is a large gap between what Scottish Canals wishes to charge and what CCL and potentially other operators believe they can pay.”

Scottish Canals says it is unable to subsidise a private business and it does not want to open justified challenges in relation to unfair competition and state aid.    

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