Thames pump-out stations spared the axe, as EA looks to cut losses

With pump-out stations on the non-tidal Thames making a loss of £13,000 per year, the prospect of withdrawing the service has been raised by the Environment Agency

Boat pump-out services on the non-tidal Thames have been spared the axe, but look set to become more expensive under new plans from the Environment Agency (EA).

Following a Freedom of Information request, Motor Boats Monthly has learned that the eight pump-out stations between Cricklade and Teddington are making a combined loss of £13,000 per year.

With this in mind, a recent meeting of the Thames Navigation User Forum (TNUF) suggested raising the price or withdrawing the service altogether.

Other suggestions to increase the efficiency of these stations were been put forward, but the EA has admitted that new funding is “not currently available”.

The eight pump-out locations generate an estimated £20,000 of revenue per year, but cost £33,000 per year to run and maintain; the equivalent of more than £4,000 per station.

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The majority of these costs come from sewage tankers, which charge £500 per callout and are required to visit five of the sites on a regular basis as they are not directly plumbed into the sewage mains.

Mick Wheatley, waterways operations manager at the EA, told the TNUF: “These units do not make a profit – indeed these are significant net cost services for us to provide.

“Given our funding constraints and priorities it is clearly unsustainable for us to continue to provide them on this basis.”

Common problems at pump out stations include theft of the O-ring joint and faulty card readers. In March this year the Boveney Lock pump-out station in Berkshire had its card reader replaced at a cost of more than £3,000, following a £300 callout to assess the problem in December last year.

However, the most expensive pump-out station on the non-Tidal Thames is Shiplake Lock, with more than £4,000 spent on maintenance there in the past 18 months alone.

A statement from the EA confirmed the decision: “After consulting with river users at the TNUF meeting to discuss the pump-out service provided at locks, it was decided that the service will continue.

“We will aim to minimise the cost of this part of the service provided for river users, which is included in the boat licence fees.”

This news comes during the EA’s consultation to raise the navigation charge by inflation only in 2015, after years of inflation + 2% rate rises.


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