Clean air is one of the essential requirements of a civilised society. Greater use of waterborne transport is an innovation of benefit to the environment, preserving and returning to use the waterways
A brief overview of the environmental and economic benefits of waterborne transport follows. Goods arrive as and when they are wanted – and a 500 tonne load saves 25 lorry trips. David Lowe of the Commercial Boat Operators Association writes that water freight produces just 20% of the greenhouse gases emitted by road transport. The biggest commercial advantages are the savings in fuel and labour. Barges use fuel more efficiently because there is less friction to overcome – and can use as little as one-quarter of the fuel of lorries, leaving a significantly reduced carbon footprint. The Freight Transport Association estimates that fuel accounts for 40% of the costs associated with truck transport but only 20% for water transport systems. Lowe points out that one or two men working a barge can move more product than one or two men driving a truck.
The CBOA advocates a reduction in costs, road congestion and air pollution by removing heavy freight from lorries to barges where there are suitable routes – and Professor Harris’ Protium project goes further, environmentally speaking, having designed a prototype hydrogen-fuelled barge. Read more here.
There has been news of increased freight shipping activity on the Thames where vessels are transporting a total of five million tons of earth excavated from Crossrail’s tunnels downstream to Kent and Essex. The increase in commercial traffic has led to the expansion of London Gateway port.
The latest figures from Transport for London show increased passenger activity on the Thames, a tidal river. The River Action Plan, launched last year, described measures designed to increase the number of river passengers to 12 million by 2020; last year they had already increased to 8.5 million – significant growth in both River Bus and River Tours services. The Putney to Blackfriars River Bus service has seen a 130% increase in passenger numbers since its re-launch in April and two more morning and three evening sailings have been introduced.
London River Services is responsible for managing eight piers on the river: Westminster, Festival, Embankment, Millbank, Blackfriars, Bankside, Tower and Greenwich. To ensure that continued growth in demand is matched by pier capacity, work is being progressed to extend Bankside, Embankment and Westminster by 2015 and are building new piers at Battersea Power Station and Plantation Wharf. Plans for piers at Convoys Wharf in Deptford, Enderby Wharf in Greenwich and the western side of North Greenwich Peninsula are also underway.
River Tours have seen growth of approximately 20% in journeys on the Thames during 2013/14. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, brought together over 40 organisations to form a River Concordat in 2009 and appointed Richard Tracey AM as the Mayor’s Ambassador for River Transport, charged with boosting its growth. He said: `We are looking to the future with plans to build further new piers and to expand existing facilities, remaining on course to reach 12 million passengers travelling on the Thames by 2020.’