Latest News | 22 August 2022

Derby river boat launched for passenger trips

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River boat trips in Derby city centre have been launched for passengers by Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust Ltd.

The Trust will run the service initially at weekends in their specially-built boat, the Outram. A schedule is being developed to match demand from the public.

The boat is a traditionally built steel hulled narrowboat measuring 50ft by 8ft 6in and designed to carry 12 passengers and crew. It will follow a fixed route between Phoenix Green, opposite Derby Museums‘ Museum of Making, and Darley Abbey. The trip takes about 50 minutes travelling slowly upriver, turning and returning downstream to the mooring point.

Mike Wingfield, Vice Chairman of DSCT and designer of the Outram, said: “We knew we had to design a boat from scratch and this allowed us to build it with disabled access and environmental credentials.

“Narrowboats traditionally are less than 7 feet wide and would not allow wheelchair access, so we added another 18 inches to the width and built in a wheelchair lift and disabled toilet. The boat is also environmentally friendly – it runs on electric power, with batteries recharged from solar panels and topped up by a fast landline charger – and provides a composting toilet.

“We’ve been delighted to receive support from Rolls-Royce trainees and engineers, who have developed a remote controlled boat to capture plastic in the river. There are also other child activities and displays on board making it a real family excursion.”

The Trust had the boat ready to go in 2020, just as the pandemic struck. Inevitably this caused major set backs, but the boat was trialled at Shardlow in September, launched into the River Derwent in October last year and moored temporarily at a jetty in Darley Abbey.

The interim has been spent working with Derby City Council officers to train volunteer crews, independently prove its safety, and create a temporary boarding platform for passengers while awaiting planning permission to be granted for the proposed permanent mooring pontoon. In that time surveys of the river depth have been undertaken, approvals sought by the Environment Agency and a licensing regime established to regulate this service and any that follow. The Trust has commissioned Derby LIVE to manage bookings online. Full pricing and booking information can be found on the Live Tickets website.

With the first trips having taken place on on Sunday 21 August, Trust Chairman Chris Madge added: “We are delighted to finally invite passengers on board. After such long delays caused by the pandemic we were determined not to miss the summer completely, so we are starting the service from a temporary boarding point under Causey Bridge.
“We are grateful for Derby City Council for their help in this and await the construction of a pontoon expected in the autumn, which will then provide full disabled access.

“We are also grateful for the many volunteers ready to welcome people aboard and explain the river, the boat and how we plan to get the Derby Canal restored. We also welcome the vision of the City Council, which sees this as the first stage in opening up the river for the public to enjoy.”

Councillor Matthew Eyre, Derby City Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Development, Place and Tourism, said: “This project coming to fruition is testament to the City Council’s continued ambition to diversify the offer our city centre provides to residents and visitors, provide new leisure activities and work in partnership with local organisations to deliver ambitious projects for our city and our residents.

“Passengers will be able to see a view of the city centre that, until now, has only been available to local rowing clubs, and the launch of this service marks the start of Derby finally making use of the River Derwent and acknowledging its status as a valuable asset to our city. We are finally turning to face the river.

“There have been challenges to overcome in making sure trips can run safely on a river that hasn’t been navigable to boats of this size for more than 100 years, but what we now have in place will open up more opportunities for making the most of the river in future. We look forward to the next phase, which is for the permanent mooring pontoon, and cannot wait to see people out enjoying themselves on the boat.”

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