OXFORD’S first ever water bus has entered troubled waters with boat residents before it has even launched.
The electric 12-seater passenger boat will travel the canal from Aristotle Lane to the city centre at Hythe Bridge Street seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm over a six-week trial beginning on Friday next week.
The scheme was originally devised as a mode of transport for local residents but it is also hoped the trial run will attract a number of tourists.
There will be a consultation over its future after the initial run before the Canal and River Trust decides to give permanent permission.
But boat owners are angry they have not been consulted prior to the trial. Alex Wilson, 26, a boat owner along the canal, said: “Once this initial run is completed, plans for a permanent water bus will supposedly be reviewed very carefully, but I’m sceptical that they will pay proper attention to the concerns of any residents before granting permission.
“The fact that this is the first we’ve heard of it, when it starts in less than a month, is not a good sign.”
Susanna Pressel, councillor for Jericho and Osney, said: “This sounds like an exciting project and a good way to attract more people to the canal, but I was very disappointed to hear that the Canal and Rivers Trust seems not to have bothered to consult their tenants before putting in the planning application.
“Many of the people who live at Hythe Bridge Arm anticipate that it will have a considerable effect on their lives. The CRT gets a lot of income from these residential moorings, and one would expect them to be more considerate.”
The boat is the brainchild of Jericho residents Alan Joyce and Sir Christopher Ball are is said to use a 10th of the energy it takes to move a person by bus and weighs just one ton.
The company obtained temporary planning permission from Oxford City Council for a water bus stop by the canal on Hythe Bridge Street.
Residents have also expressed concern over their security and privacy during the planned trial period.
Mr Wilson said: “The fact you can see straight into all the boats, there have been quite a lot of break-ins around here lately and people are on edge anyway, and now there will be even more people coming past looking in.”
He added: “Imagine what it would be like to have 12 people peer into every single room of your house (including bathroom) 18 times a day.”
Mr Joyce, 52, from Oxford allayed residents’ concerns over security and privacy. He said: “The service is initially aimed at tourists and tourists don’t come to Oxford to break into people’s boats. There are simple things that can be done to improve security at no extra cost. As for privacy we offered to provide new curtains to boat residents.”
He added: “We are serious about this and we want to do it properly. We are working closely with boat owners.”
It will take 30 minutes each way and a return ticket will cost £10 for adults and £6 for children.
A potential permanent Water Bus could feature more stops along the route and a concessionary rate for local residents in keeping with equivalent bus prices.
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