Freight Facilities Grants
By way of Freight Facilities Grants, Government has over the years funded a number of projects for waterborne freight but in recent years revision of the scheme, certainly as far as England is concerned, has minimised the impact of modal shift. In Scotland the Waterborne Freight Grant and Mode Revenue Support have been subsumed by the Future Transport Fund, specifically geared towards environment improvement. The movement of round timber from production areas in Scotland has in many places put a heavy burden on inadequate road links. The Timberlink project, collaboration between ports, British Waterways and forestry companies, provides a good example of effective use of FFGs to shift traffic to waterways.
The Kanutta (42.0 x 8.0 x 4.3 metres, 1,450 dwt - pictured on the Caledonian Canal) has been moving timber through the Caledonian Canal from Loch Etive to Inverness and the Red Baroness (65.0 x 10.7 x 4.0 metres, 1,450 dwt) has been well employed in coastal timber movements. The Caledonian Canal provides an obvious shortcut between Scotland’s west and east coasts and the most recent of several attempts to use this more fully comes from the Great Glen Shipping Company which, with a Modal Shift Revenue Support grant, has acquired two former 1978 built Alderney Shipping vessels, the Isis and Burhou I (both 57.5 x 10.1 x 3.4, 953 dwt). The length of the latter has been reduced by 12 metres so that it can navigate the canal. Timber may well be the main cargo but a new deck-mounted deck excavator will facilitate handling of bulk cargoes, with winter suggesting that salt is likely to be important.
The Scottish Government welcomed this “exciting development…it will support our aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking lorries off our roads…(and will) benefit the local communities, tourists and the freight industry.” It would seem that the Scottish Government has a more positive strategy than exists south of the border.
IWA has always been of the view that, just as bus services require bus stops and rail networks need stations, so waterborne freight is dependent on the availability of sites at which cargo can be handled. It was of course for this reason that in 1997 the Government’s safeguarding direction and the commendable effort of the PLA ensured that the disappearance of wharves was slowed down and that some of those not in use were reactivated for cargo handling.
In July 2000 the responsibility for assessing planning applications was assumed by the Mayor of London. A revised list of safeguarded wharves appeared in 2005 and a further revision was initiated in 2010, and the report prepared by URS Scott Wilson was made available for consultation late in 2011. This takes the form of long-term water freight trade forecasts in various commodity trades, rarely an accurate guide to reality and open to varied interpretation, in relation to wharf capacity in London’s different regions. While this may work reasonably well for the Thames wharves it does not provide an acceptable basis for providing the capacity which might encourage modal shift on to the canals. Perhaps London needs to look to Leeds (pictured left) where the local authority, together with British Waterways, and encouraged by potential users, seems to be taking a more realistic and pragmatic approach to wharf safeguarding. The City is intent on maintaining existing wharves and has agreed on safeguarding sites suitable for waterborne freight. A site at Stourton has been identified for a new wharf and the City sees concrete batching and asphalt as possible waterside industries. Steel, timber and containers could also provide traffic. There has already been a successfultrial shipment of steel sections from a Trent wharf to Leeds.
Barges Return to Selby
Following collaboration between the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA), Hewitt Marine & Westmill Foods, the first consignment of rice was loaded on board Hewitt Marine’s Seagull on 5th December last year. This was destined for delivery to the Westmill waterside rice milling and packaging plant (pictured) at Selby, Yorkshire on the River Ouse. Some 285 tonnes were loaded at King George Dock in Hull but it is anticipated that in future this will be increased to 300 tonnes. Hewitt Marine expects to carry many more loads on behalf of Westmill, with each trip saving a minimum of 12 trucks making their way through the narrow, historic streets of Selby.
Westmill is no stranger to sustainable transport. Until four years ago, when problems caused modal shift back to road, the rice was delivered in LASH (lighter aboard ship) barges pushed by tugs belonging to Dean’s Tugs and Workboats Ltd, based at Hull.
IWA Policy on Freight
From its inception, the IWA has been concerned with the multi-functional use of the waterways including freight transport, and this was crystallised with the creation by Charles Hadfield in 1971 of the Inland Shipping Group, now the Inland Waterways Freight Group. IWA is formulating its current policy with respect to freight.
Where freight movement by water is sustainable in economic, environment and social terms, IWA will lobby waterway authorities to maintain the waterways to statutory standards and in a condition suitable for modern vessels. Furthermore, it will press them to market and facilitate opportunities for freight traffic. Where there is significant freight potential, IWA supports the continuing enhancement of waterway capacity and facilities and will encourage Government and planning authorities to consider waterway freight transport in drawing up plans, and identifying and where appropriate protecting/safeguarding suitable locations for industry and freight interchanges.
IWA supports Government funding to encourage modal shift from roads to water and with like-minded lobby groups will seek to raise awareness of the opportunities for and advantages of waterborne freight. IWA recognises the benefit of freight traffic on smaller waterways in encouraging the retention of commercial craft of heritage interest and in maintaining channel cross-section.
Cory and London
The Cory company has a long association with the Thames and London and this was formalised in 2002 with a 30-year contract with the Western Riverside Waste Authority, the provision of a new materials recycling facility at Wandsworth and the construction of the Belvedere Riverside Energy from Waste plant where, through a new jetty, Cory Lighterage delivers over 600,000 tonnes of waste a year from Wandsworth and ships 170,000 tonnes of incinerator bottom ash to Tilbury. This gives an annual saving of 100,000 HGVs on London’s roads - is it too much to hope that at some time in the future a rationalisation of waste and recyclables collection and disposal could result in greater use of the Lee Navigation and the Paddington Arm?