Adam Forrest reports that some entrepreneurs are realising the untapped potential of rivers in major cities. They envisage passenger vessels becoming a daily means of travel for residents. This would ease the pressure on congested roads and crowded public transport and help to tackle air pollution.
‘Water taxis are already plying in several British cities, including Glasgow, Spalding, Lancaster, Leeds and Manchester.
In London, MBNA Thames Clippers is building a service for daily commuters (above), using Transport for London’s system which allows Londoners to hop on and off boats by swiping their Oyster and contactless cards. It carried 4 million passengers in 2016.
Far lower emissions than road vehicles and aiming to reduce them still further
MBNA claims its retrofitted catamarans have cut particulate emissions by 50% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 40% – but the boats are still powered by diesel.
Forrest adds: “Boat operators face some major challenges. They have to be able to scale up their services to carry larger numbers of passengers, as well as trying to reduce the environmental impact of boats dependent on high-polluting diesel fuel”.
Change is on its way
- In Hamburg, HADAG has added a hybrid-powered ferry to its fleet crossing the Elbe river, using both diesel and electric power sources.
- In Southampton, a company called REAPsystems has developed a hybrid system for water taxi boats, one able to switch easily between a fuel engine and electric motor. The company will take their hybrid water taxi boat to Venice next year, where a hotel operator will run it on a passenger route through the canals and out to the airport throughout the summer.
- A member of the Commercial Boat Operators Association, Antoon Van Coillie, intends to convert his large continental barges to hydrogen fuel.
- A team at Birmingham University (Project Leader Professor Rex Harris) has constructed a hydrogen-powered canal boat, tried and tested, which is undergoing further modifications.
As David Bailey, who forwarded the link to Forrest’s article, tweeted whilst working in Venice:
A minute percentage of passengers and freight are currently carried by water – but as Atkins Global (see their project ‘showcase’) asked earlier: with the rising cost and environmental burden of road transport, could UK businesses (and we add, public transport) follow Europe’s example and turn back to the water?