25 May 2011

Whilst most students are encamped in libraries, discovering new levels of caffeine tolerance or making the occasional foray into daylight in search of fresh stationery, trouble is brewing on the Cam.

Independent punters forced to moor and collect groups of tourists by “Orgasm Bridge” next to Trinity Hall have sparked congestion which has been labelled as “unpleasant” and “dangerous” by Rod Ingersent, general manager of Scudamore’s, Cambridge’s biggest punt company. The situation seems set to escalate in the height of the tourist season.

Congestion is due to a monopoly held on almost all mooring sites between Jesus Lock and the Mill Pool – Cambridge City Council recently struck a deal with Scudamore’s granting them exclusive use of mooring at Quayside. Now only the spot by Garret Hostel Lane and a small jetty by Jesus Green are still available to independent punters. Labour City Cllr Lewis Herbert rather hyperbolically commented that the Jesus Green jetty is “half way to Ely”.

Rivalries amongst punt companies have been common in recent years, with 31 clashes between punters of rival companies occurring in 2008. In one case, a punter was arrested for wielding a knife and in another a tourist was left with a broken hip.

Despite the furore amongst punt companies, students are fairly ambivalent as to whether tourists are blocking Kings Parade or indeed blocking each other on the river. First year Clare Engineer David Jenkinson remarked, “Punt congestion? Personally I don’t find it too bad – if you’re a reasonably competent punter you can usually deal with it… it isn’t exactly a hardship”.

In 2009, Cambridge City Council appointed a ‘punting enforcement officer’ to keep the aggression and congestion in check. However with the council now moving to try and restrict the number of punts on the river, authorities are still adrift as to how to reduce the problem.

Jack Euesden

Photo Credit: Tom Pagenet