When the system goes live on 14 November 2016, boaters planning trips through Anderton Boat Lift, Standedge Tunnel, Liverpool Canal Link, Ribble Link and Frankton Lock, or wanting to use Wigan and Ellesmere dry docks, will be able to book up to two years in advance. If these prove successful then the Trust will look to roll out online booking to other bookable passages and dry docks across the network.
Sitting within the boater's portal on the Trust's website, the system offers boaters 24/7 online access and takes out the paper element of the booking process. Boaters will know immediately if the booking has been successful and can track and change confirmed bookings online. Some things are staying the same: there will be no additional charges to those currently applied, and boaters can talk to Trust staff who can book passage for them if they prefer.
Mike Grimes, head of boating at the Trust, said: "This new online booking system will make it quick and easy for boaters to book passage through some of the most iconic spots on our canals and rivers. While some boaters will make trips specifically to see some of the wonders of our waterways, they're also complex pieces of engineering that connect our network. Now boaters will be able to plan their cruises up to two years in advance, and will have the flexibility to change things in advance if their plans change without filling in paper forms and sending them off. We're always looking for ways to make things simpler and better for boaters and if this is successful we'll add more sites to the system in future."
The system, developed with Concurrent Development, is being tested throughout September and October and the Trust has been working with boating organisations and trade partners to make sure it meets boater requirements.