Environmentally friendly canal barges can carry freight currently going by road and rail


Following the formation of the new Canals and River Trust, now responsible for 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales, the Inland Waterways Association charity has issued its ‘IWA Policy on Freight on Inland Waterways’, recognising the environmentally friendliness of freight carriage by water – the benefits of fuel consumption and carbon reduction. Barges can use as little as one-quarter of the fuel of lorries, leaving a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

Peel Ports’ Liverpool-Manchester Shuttle plies the River Mersey and Ship Canal several times a week carrying containers of imports and exports which would otherwise be transported by truck, adding to congestion on Britain’s roads.

The IWA reiterates its support for transport on all types of waterway and lists its pro-water based freight policies and the actions it will take towards encouraging freight, including Government lobbying. Support will be given for the CRT in dredging, removing ‘pinch points’ and increasing bridge headroom together with supporting development and maintenance of inland terminals for freight, including containerised traffic. These deeper draughted vessels maintain channel depth and identify pinch points.

Volunteers are playing a vital role in restoring these waterways

Droitwich – the hub of a thriving salt trade – once had two canals. The Droitwich Barge Canal, which opened in 1771, linking Droitwich Spa to the River Severn, was commercially successful. Later, in 1854, the Droitwich Junction Canal – a narrow waterway linking to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal – was opened.

However, by 1939, losing custom to the railways, it gradually became overgrown and silted up, its locks twisted and broken.

Over 38 years ago, Max Sinclair gathered a team of volunteers and in 1973, his lobbying led to the creation of the Droitwich Canals Trust. The restoration of the waterway began with the removal of an estimated 300,000 tons of mud from the route of the canals and locks.

In 2000, the first three locks on Junction Canal were completed.

Further funding, including £12.7million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, enabled the restoration of nine broad locks, the building of a new bridge, just over half a mile of new canal and four new locks. Five miles of canal were dredged, and a 5.5 hectare reed bed was made.

Max Sinclair, now 82, won an English Heritage Award for his leading role in more than 30 years of voluntary work leading to the reopening of the Droitwich Canals in July 2011, which now form part of a navigable 27-mile ring passing through Worcester and Droitwich.

We hope that the restored canals in Droitwich – already proving popular with tourist traffic – will carry some freight.


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