Derby welcomes riverboat launch

Published: 14 October 2021

Boat being lowered into the River Derwent

The Outram is lowered into the River Derwent from Cathedral Green

Plans by Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust to bring boat trips to the River Derwent took a step forward today with the successful launch of their riverboat on the water in Derby city centre.

Named after the famous Derbyshire engineer who built the Derby Canal, the Outram has been designed and built by a local boatyard and canal trust volunteers. The 16 tonne craft was lowered into the river by crane from Cathedral Green, outside the Museum of Making.

Following its launch in Derby, the Outram will remain moored in the Derwent over the winter while more trials are carried out, volunteer crew members are trained, and safety measures are installed along the river.

The Trust will launch return passenger trips from the city centre to Darley Abbey in Spring 2022, following on from a successful test with passengers at the recent Shardlow Inland Port Festival.

Volunteers at the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust built the Outram from scratch in just over six months, but its launch was delayed by the pandemic. While it is built in the style of a traditional narrowboat, it is wider than normal to accommodate wheelchair users. It is quiet and environmentally friendly, using the latest technology. Onboard solar panels top up its power source of lead carbon batteries.

And working with graduate manufacturing engineers from Rolls-Royce, the Trust has developed a small remote-controlled boat called ARTEMIS which can be operated from the Outram, to collect harmful plastic waste from the river.

Outram will be able to carry up to 12 passengers on a 45-minute round trip on the River Derwent commencing in spring 2022. With a commentary by Sir David Suchet promoting Derby’s historic role in the cultural and industrial development of the country, the focus will be on entertaining families with a number of interactive displays. 

Chris Madge, Chairman of DSCT said:

We are delighted to be able to get our boat onto the river. We had hoped to launch in 2020, but a narrowboat is no place for people to socially distance. At last we can look forward to the prospect of welcoming passengers and exciting them with the technology on board, the story of Derby and our canal, and providing a tranquil journey on a beautiful river in a lovely setting.

Being able to offer passenger trips will be an important step for us. Our vision for the future includes making the river navigable south of the city centre into Pride Park, with the creation of the Derby Arm, a huge lift which would transfer boats from the River Derwent to a restored Derby Canal. We are a volunteer organisation that depends on support from the local community and businesses. This venture will enable us to garner greater support and promote our longer term aspirations to make Derby a destination for boaters and tourists alike.

Derby City Council has been supporting the Canal Trust in launching the Outram on the River Derwent, and is looking at the river in conjunction with its regeneration plans.

Councillor Ross McCristal, Derby City Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture, Tourism and Wellbeing, said:

Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust has great ambition, and I’m pleased to be supporting the testing of the new riverboat.

A river can be a city’s greatest natural asset, but historically, as a city, we’ve not embraced the River Derwent and have certainly not made the most of it. That’s changing, with major regeneration projects like Our City Our River underway.

Projects like this, and proposed regeneration work in the area, will help Derby embrace and turn towards the river. I believe they have the potential to fundamentally change our city centre – making Derby a more vibrant place to be, and opening new spaces and opportunities for residents, visitors and businesses.

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