Waterways are ‘an under-used resource’ according to Christian Wolmar, award-winning writer and broadcaster specialising in transport. As he writes: “Inland waterways could take thousands of annual lorry trips off North London’s overstretched roads.”
On 11th March, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan sent a message to his mailing list which opened:
“London’s toxic air is a public health emergency. Pollution is shortening lives, it’s linked to asthma, strokes, heart disease and dementia. It costs the NHS £3.7 billion each year and affects children at more than 440 schools who are breathing air that exceeds safe legal pollution levels – this can’t continue. That’s why we’re launching the central London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) on 8 April — a daily £12.50 charge for the most polluting vehicles, 24/7 in the central London Congestion Charge Zone”.
As the forthcoming Gosling report points out: “It is a UK government objective to transfer more freight from roads to inland waterways. The Department for Transport explained in 2017 that waterways are “attractive for the environmental benefits they provide, and the reliable congestion-free freight access they offer over alternate modes.” To this end, note:
- London mayor Sadiq Khan’s introduction to new Freight and servicing action plan. Key actions include working with boroughs to better coordinate the control of freight movements on London’s roads and increasing use of water and rail.
- The Mayor of London’s Safeguarded Wharves Review 2018 the mayor of London once more affirms his awareness rail electric vans and cargo bikes Supporting increased use of water by protecting and reactivating wharves.
- The London Environment Strategy (2018), published by the Greater London Authority, refers to the Mayor’s support for increased use of waterways for freight and passenger services, as well as leisure uses. The main reasons for this are that reducing the number of vehicles and making more use of the waterways will help to improve air quality in London’s busy and congested streets.
In this strategy document, the Mayor sets out aims to reduce emissions from freight through encouraging a switch to lower emission vehicles, requiring a major expansion in electric charging and hydrogen infrastructure. To enable cleaner vessels to use the waterways, new and refurbished wharves, piers and canal moorings to generate renewable power onsite will be encouraged. Where appropriate, shore power or refuelling facilities for low emission fuels should be provided for all vessels moored onsite.
The cost of installing dockside electricity charging stations has been described as a challenge. In Amsterdam a charging rota makes the system commercially viable.
The Loadstar – a ‘multimodal online news resource for the logistics industry’ quotes information from Peter Binham (Transport for London) that the London mayor wants to see about 55% of all project materials carried by river, as well as an overall increase in the amount of freight carried this way. City government efforts are reaping some rewards, with TfL noting that a number of barge trials had been undertaken to increase load-bearing from 800 tonnes to 1,500 tonnes. TfL also uses its influence to indicate transport modes for the projects it is involved in building. (For some reason this link https://theloadstar.com/dhl-express-to-make-a-splash-with-delivery-option-using-thames-barges/, though correct, will not open – it has to be copied and pasted.
The following extract is copied from the Port of London Authority’s informative report, The Thames Vision Goals.
Inland Freight: more goods off roads onto the river
More goods and materials are routinely moved between wharves on the river – every year over four million tonnes carried by water – taking over 400,000 lorry trips off the region’s roads. Future goals:
- Double underlying intra-port freight to over 4 million tonnes
- Champion the Thames as a default choice for moving spoil and materials from infrastructure projects close to the river
- Maintain or reactivate viable cargo handling facilities, with at least five additional facilities brought into operation by 2025
- Extend the River Concordat to promote freight movements by water
- Develop the Thames Skills Academy to provide the skills needed on the Thames
Call for a dedicated London freight commissioner
Logistics Manager, a monthly magazine for managers in charge of the supply chain of the UK’s largest industrial, retail and commercial organisations, reports that business leaders are calling on London mayor Sadiq Khan to appoint a dedicated freight commissioner to support the implementation of his transport strategy. They point out that freight movements could be reduced through better use of consolidated trips and of cargo bikes and motorbikes for shorter, smaller deliveries in central London and town centres.
The Freight Transport Association, together with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses, was responding to publication of the mayor’s Freight Action Plan arguing that there is an urgent need for a strong voice to champion freight transport and its particular interests and concerns across London.