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Navigating and living on the waterways of Continental Europe and news of canal developments.
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TOPIC: VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019

VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 05 Apr 2020 08:45 #115135

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I have received an e-mail from VNF DT-NE providing an update on the current Covid-19 crisis as it affects VNF's North East region. Please find attached the French original and my translation into English.

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 26 Mar 2020 13:44 #114904

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I have just received a notification from VNF DT NE that the routine closures on the Moselle for maintenance purposes, originally planned for11-25 May 2020, has bren postponed to 21-30 September 2020. This is due to the current COVID-19 situation and the need for tri-state coordination of the works.

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 19 Jan 2020 16:08 #113046

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Further to my previous 2 entries, below, posting the results of the meeting of the CLU DT-NE in Nancy on 25th November 2019, which I attended for DBA, I have now received a further notification from VNF concerning stoppages on the Moselle 2026 - 2035 for repair and maintenance purposes, recording the decision of the Technical Committee on 18th November 2019.

I have not translated the notification (attached), the table speaks for itself. In brief, VNF's notification sets out that each stoppage will be for a duration of 10 days and that when planning these stoppages, together with their Luxembourgeois and German counterparts, they avoid public holidays, weekends etc. to the extent possible.

So for anyone already planning their cruising itinerary on the Moselle for 2026 and beyond - good sailing !

Pete Clark
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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 13 Jan 2020 18:37 #112912

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My apologies - I see I had not yet posted the full MoM (compte rendu) received in the meantime. These are now attached.

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 13 Jan 2020 18:34 #112911

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A while back I posted the VNF's presentation, the MoM and my summary of the proceedings at the CLU DT NE on 25.11.2019 which I attended on behalf of the DBA:

barges.org/forum/waterways-continental-europe/25275-vnf-user-group-meeting-dt-nord-est-clu-ne-25-november-2019#111792

In the meantime I have received notification of certain changes to the planned stoppages in 2020 in response to comments raised by users at that meeting, notably by representatives of the hire boat companies complaining that the planned closures of the Nancy Branch and the CRM-E were too long, biting into the beginning of the hire season. VNF has considered and responded to these comments in part by adjusting its planning, with the effect of keeping open access to Nancy Port and shortening the stoppage on the CRM-E by 2 weeks (all going well …).

Who said VNF was an unwieldy behemoth? :unsure: :whistle:

Please see attached.

Pete Clark

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 30 Nov 2019 22:55 #111817

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Balliol Fowden wrote: ... just distract you from baiting ex-cops.


Baiting ex-cops, little moi? Fie! That's got to be almost as bad as someone (no names, no pack drill) baiting ex-lawyers! The baiters baiting the baited.

Back on point, I will say, having attended a few of these CLU meetings in the meantime, that despite all criticism, VNF's task is not easy. Of course it is a top-heavy bureaucracy, of course it has its inefficiencies (what big conglomerate doesn't?) and yes, of course it could do better. But I am nevertheless generally impressed with what it achieves on its limited budget. Our task as DBA in this context is to stay on the qui vive and, together with other boating organisations, help make sure it fulfils its role to the best of its ability.

Pete Clark

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 29 Nov 2019 23:27 #111800

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I’m sure you are right Pete, the horse has bolted, closely followed by lock keepers. I suppose the good news is that we might see less students, so locks might be slightly safer. I wasn’t planning to start a campaign, just distract you from baiting ex-cops.

Balliol.

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 29 Nov 2019 21:18 #111799

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"... the French system of automated locks has been well intentioned but unreliable ... and I wonder whether a simpler system might be justified on some waterways."

I fear, Balliol, that that particular horse has already bolted, with or without barge. The French government and the Ministry of Transport in particular - of which VNF is effectively a part - has decreed that automation there shall be, eh ben, voilà. This will be marketed as a benefit to commercial navigation (quite probably within some pan-EU framework) and pleasure boat hire cruising alike, with its untrained clientele. And will, of course, provide an argument for a further reduction in staffing levels. That this further reduced and under-trained staff will be even less well equipped to deal with the failures in the automatic systems that you refer to, leading to longer, not shorter delays and frustration, will not be the government's problem. It will, as ever, be ours as users of the system.

My fear is that increasing automation - not a bad thing in itself - and the increased use of télécommandes to conduct the whole locking cycle will do nothing to improve the boating public's understanding of waterway life, nor the quality of the experience. Less lockkeepers, less itinérants, less human beings with a feel for what the waterways are about. Quo vadis?

Let's just enjoy it while we can.

Picking up Peter Cawson's point:
"I've not travelled the Thames since all but one lock between Chertsey and Oxford was manually operated by manpower pushing against a 12" square oak beam!"

As boys my brother and I would frrquently 'help' the lockkeepers at Temple Lock and Hamblefen Lock (Mill End) on the Thames during the summer holidays by pushing against those self-same 12" oak beams. And later in life, once having discovered the joys of narrowboating, I tremendously enjoyed the experience again on various narrow and wide canals in the UK. As Balliol says, all part of the fun for many and a chance for some exercise.

Ah well....

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 29 Nov 2019 21:01 #111798

Balliol

I must say that I rather disagree in that I've rarely had problems with automated locks. We passed 511 locks this year, nearly all in French and most of these were automated. We may have had delays through automatic machinery breakdown at 4 locks in total. Considering that in years gone by all these hundreds of locks would have needed a keeper, I think the present system is pretty good.

I can foresee that the existing system could soon be developed such that most apparent breakdowns (often caused by lack of user knowledge) could be remotely resolved from a central call centre rather than the man-in van. Most problems are resolved by the VNF guy just pressing a button or two. In these days of communications and remote IT diagnostics, not much new equipment would be needed to achieve this. The existing man-in-van system is remarkably efficient with rarely more than a 30 minute delay.

I wouldn't like to have to press a push buttons to get a lock opened. Zappers usually activate when several hundred metres away from the lock which provides a good hover distance which is very welcome in high winds, particularly where no waiting pontoon is available. Navigating in high wind to a post-mounted button may be tricky, particularly if single-handed. I see no reason why an electrical contact made by pressing a button should be any more reliable than via a wireless beam activating a relay to make the same contact.

Having said that, I've not travelled the Thames since all but one lock between Chertsey and Oxford was manually operated by manpower pushing against a 12" square oak beam!

Peter

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 29 Nov 2019 19:48 #111797

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Regarding automation of locks and universal telecommanders, and whilst not wishing to decry any progress or investment I do wonder whether this has all been thought through.

I have long thought that the French system of automated locks has been well intentioned but unreliable, and in an age of austerity, and the increasing predominance of pleasure boats on some French waterways, (meaning the lack of commercial traffic) I wonder whether a simpler system might be justified on some waterways. We all know that many of the problems with locks are simple failures in the automatic systems, often seemingly due to failures in the electronic side of these systems. These can occasion long delays, and clearly many of the VNF staff spend a large proportion of their time racing around overriding the unnecessarily complex systems. I would have thought that a system such as on the Thames with electro-mechanical or electro-hydraulic operation of locks, controlled from a push button pedestal, would be a simpler and more reliable system for pleasure craft. It might also be safer, with better control of vannes for instance. A simplified system might be a bit slower, but more reliable overall and much cheaper to maintain. It might need UK style lock wheelers, but that is all part of the fun for many and a chance for some exercise.

Balliol.

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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 29 Nov 2019 18:54 #111796

Thanks, this does seem consistent with the report from Centre-Bourgogne. I have been looking up a bit about the new Loi d'Orientation des Mobilités; not easy to get clear details without wading through reams of legal text, but it is clearly a wide-ranging and ambitious effort to achieve more environmentally friendly transport. Waterways are not the main focus, but VNF will indeed benefit from substantial extra funds for necessary maintenance and modernisation. I see that in the parliamentary debates, the minister refused to rule out possible 'denavigation', but this is evidently no longer part of the grand design.
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VNF User Group Meeting DT Nord-Est (CLU NE) 25 November 2019 29 Nov 2019 18:13 #111792

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I attended the NE User Group Meeting last Monday and now enclose:-

- Agenda
- VNF Presentation
- My Summary in English (full Minutes of Meeting will be posted on receipt)
- List of Planned Stoppages 2020 - 2021

Of particular interest, in the light of information published by VNF last spring and minuted at the previous meeting on 15 May 2019, was the contrary assertion at this meeting by the new meeting chairman, echoing the words of the new director general, that he did not intend to preside over the denavigation of the French waterway network. Maybe there's hope yet!

Another interesting piece of news is the planned introduction from 2020 onwards of a single nationwide télécommande (remote lock control unit) to replace those found on some of the French canals already (which differ by region). As has been commented elsewhere recently [ barges.org/forum/waterways-continental-europe/25268-clu-centre-bourgogne#111703 ], this presupposes the automation of all locks and bridges across the entire network. Now that'll be something to tell your grandchildren!

In either case, not sure if "Watch this space" or "Don't hold your breath" is the appropriate comment at this stage? Let's live in hope!

Pete Clark

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