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The Value of Inland Waterways in England & Wales

Published 2011

The project aim is to apply a benefits transfer based valuation framework produced in the earlier phase of the research programme to evaluate the key social, economic and environmental benefits that the inland waterways in England and Wales deliver, against two policy scenarios (i.e. reduced or increased funding).

In order to achieve this outcome and the ultimate goal of a national picture of the benefits provided by inland waterways, the project first categorises the waterways of England and Wales based on a series of parameters which can influence the realisation of benefits. This categorisation process facilitates the application of a valuation framework to case study sites to evaluate the key social, economic and environmental benefits they provide and to assess the degree to which the provision of these benefits changes according to different policy or funding scenarios.

Once completed, this information will be used to inform policy making across Defra and other Government Departments. As well as enabling the key benefits for individual waterways to be identified and the value derived by investment in them, it will also allow the loss of benefits associated with withdrawing investment to be better understood.

The Key Conclusions

The benefits currently provided by navigable waterways, both at the case study level and the national level, are clearly significant. The baseline benefits have been found to range between £109k per kilometre per year to £730k per kilometre per year. In general, the categories covering canals showed higher baseline values for the key benefits than river categories showed.

The Scenario 1 assessment shows that benefits can be easily lost through inaction or poor maintenance, resulting in degradation of the waterways and associated assets. Based on a range of assumptions, between £250M and £790M could be lost annually should Scenario 1 be realised.

The assessment also shows that significant value could be realised under Scenario 2. These benefits could be described as the potential additional value of the waterways to the nation if investment happened. Again, based on a range of assumptions, this could be between £186M and £677M annually. The best estimate is £300M per year.

The majority of these gains or losses in benefits are driven by towpath/pathway visits. The analysis shows that over 80% of the possible loss or gain in benefits would come from informal use of the towpaths along canals and pathways along rivers. It is therefore clear that in order to maximise the benefits which could be realised by investment, this is a key area to focus on.