According to the EA River Conditions web page some level of assisted passage may now be available at 31 of the 45 locks. The River Conditions Webpage is providing daily updates of lock service issues and other problems affecting navigation – see the blue panel down the RHS of the page. https://www.riverconditions.environment-agency.gov.uk
Where assisted passage is now available, the EA are endeavouring to meet the Customer Charter targets as per the published Lock Keeping Service Hours .
However, coronavirus issues (which affect lock staff just as much as anyone else) have inevitably compounded the problems which may result in Self Service, and, as there are currently no volunteers providing cover at mealtimes and weir duty absence etc. this is inevitable. Holidays, sickness and other requirements also complicate the problem and, although there are now 15 summer relief staff this is fewer than in previous years due to financial constraints.
A lot of effort has gone into providing safety arrangements at locks so that EA staff and boaters can safely use the facilities without risk from the general public who have been using the towpath and lock throughways in increasing numbers – most of the fencing appears to be intended to overcome this potential threat to safety.
The remaining 14 locks are expected to be providing assisted passage soon but all the hydraulic locks are now operating on public power when on Self Service. We have also been seeing a dramatic improvement in response time to sorting any lock failures that do arise. A hydraulic failure at Days lock earlier this week was repaired and the lock back in service within a few hours.
Worst case scenario is that boaters may find locks on Self Service even during published duty hours. Best case is that you will find increasing evidence of assisted passage as the new arrangements settle down.
Regrettably, there have been several instances of abusive behaviour towards lock staff – and sad to say that some of this has been by boaters. Lock staff have been instructed to walk away from any threatening situations and have due regard for their own safety, so such behaviour may well result in a manned lock becoming unmanned !