Unprecedented fall in demand

Lock use across inland waterways was varied in 2020 Photo: Canal & River Trust Lock use across inland waterways was varied in 2020 Photo: Canal & River Trust
Industry Database

The Canal & River Trust’s latest annual report shows an unprecedented drop in use of the waterways as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Annual Lockage Report 2020 shows a 32.9% reduction in the use of locks across 172 sites compared with 2019.

Adam Comerford, national hydrology manager at the Canal & River Trust, attributed the drop to lockdown restrictions. “The reasons for variances in lock use year to year can be numerous and complex, but in 2020 the reason for such an unprecedented drop was clear – the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Use of locks varied considerably throughout the year. In the week before the first lockdown in March there were around 3,500 weekly lock counts but during lockdown this reduced to below 1,000. Post-lockdown numbers bounced back and from early July numbers soared, reaching a peak of 13,700 in mid-August.


“It was heartening to see boaters, both owners and hirers, enjoying a summer of cruising,” continued Adam Comerford. “The waterways remain as popular as ever and we hope that some of these new staycationers will return to the canals for future holidays.”

Hillmorton Locks 2&3 on the Oxford Canal remained the busiest locks across England and Wales but still saw a drop of 29% from the previous year. Cholmondeston on the Shropshire Union Canal was the second busiest, also down 29% on the previous year whilst Woodend on the Trent & Mersey was in third, followed by Wardle on the Shropshire Union Canal and New Marton on the Llangollen Canal.

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