Cam Before the Storm

An emergency congestion tax is being imposed on wide punts on the River Cam to avoid ‘PUNT RAGE’ at peak times.

cam punt wars punters PUNTING scudamores

An emergency congestion tax is being imposed on wide punts on the River Cam to avoid ‘PUNT RAGE’ at peak times.

The Conservators of the River Cam said congestion on the river in summer led to “frayed tempers and animosity“.

The huge crafts’ lack of manoeuvrability has added to the problems of the ‘punt wars’, which has led to chaos in the summer tourist season.

In the last three years alone there have been 31 reported clashes between rival punt companies, including knife threats, mugs of tea being thrown and one punt tout – known as ‘Christian the Quayside Strangler’ – grabbing another by the throat.

Boats have been sunk, bolt cutters have been used to set the craft adrift and one punt was sawn in half, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

An elderly tourist, caught up in a tussle between two touts, had her hip broken.

In a bid to deter wide-beam punts owners will be taxed £1,040 instead of £806 to register them this year.

The plans were rushed through at the quarterly meeting of the Conservators of the River Cam held on January 14 in the city’s Guildhall.

The Conservators of the River Cam have 13 members, including seven representatives from the city council, one from the county council, two from the Environment Agency and three from Cambridge University.

One of the city council members is Rod Ingersent, who manages Scudamores, Cambridge’s largest punt company.

When contacted by The Tab, Mr Ingersant’s aide refused to answer any questions, saying that he was “not in a position to give any comments on that”.

James Macnaughton, a director of Scudamores, blasted the increase as ‘unfair’.

He said: “It would cost Scudamore’s £20,000 per year!”.

He went on to express concerns about whether or not punters would be able to continue to feed their families.

“These are people’s livelihoods we are talking about.

“It’s just wrong, people shouldn’t be treated in this way.”

But after severe pressure, the Conservators were forced to back down and delayed planned increase on hold for 12 months.

John Adams, who chaired the meeting, said the increase in the cost of registration would serve as ‘an economic instrument’ to reduce the number of punts on the crowded river, and hopefully prevent the ‘punt wars’ escalating to lethal proportions.

Punting is a major tourist attraction in Cambridge with an annual turnover of over £2.5 million.

It is such a money-maker that a recent documentary available on YouTube called ‘Punt Wars’ labels punters as ‘Fat cat capitalist wannabes’.

With the wider punts earning £150 an hour, it seems the Conservators will be cashing in on a lucrative trade.

The craft were developed in Medieval times for shallow water and first introduced to Cambridge as pleasure craft in Edwardian times around 100 years ago.

Ironically, the 21st century has seen them become the catalyst for levels of violence more associated with the reign of Richard the Lionheart than Gordon Brown.

To read The Tab’s top ten punter lies, click here.