Broads hire boat fleet on the up for first time in five years
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2015
Broads boaters will face some tough decisions in the coming weeks when deciding on tolls for the new season.
An increase in the size of the private boat fleet and better than expected performance in hire boat numbers has placed the Broads Authority (BA) in a stronger than expected financial position.
As a result, the authority said it could introduce a below inflationary increase of just 1pc in tolls for the 2018/19 period or up the tariff to address some of the most common requests from boaters - spend more on dredging, maintenance and the provision of moorings and increase ranger patrols.
The number of weekly hired motor cruisers has been in decline since a high of over 2,200 in the 1980s. Between 2012 and 2016 the number dropped from 894 to 789.
The hire boat industry had predicted a further reduction of 20 boats in the 2017/18 period, however the authority reported there had been a slight increase in the numbers from 789 in 2016 to 802 this year.
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A spokesperson said: 'The awareness of the Broads National Park as a tourist destination has increased through partnership working with Broads Tourism and this is reflected in the higher numbers of hire boats.'
Michael Whitaker, chairman of the Broads Hire Boat Federation, said hire boats were the backbone of the Broads tourism industry.
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He said: 'It therefore is very pleasing that the latest figures show this year the decline has been halted.
'This is largely the result of significant investment by the industry in new boats and the retirement of older vessels.
'We have been delighted by the response by visitors who appreciate the quality and modern facilities on the newer boats.' A new, fairer toll charging structure has also stemmed the decline in small private boats, which have increased in number by over 10pc from 1,646 in 2016 to 1,820 this year.
The information is contained in a 'Proposed Navigation Charges for 2018/19' report released on Thursday.
The report contains a range of options for the navigation committee to consider regarding an increase in tolls.
'The authority is in a good position to offer some strategic choices in response to requests from boat owners and the hire boat operators,' said the spokesperson.