UK – London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has suggested that London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, should establish a temporary River Commission to explore how to make better use of the River Thames, proposing that such a body could recommend that the waterway be used as a 'highway' to ease congestion on the capital's roads with particular focus on shifting freight and construction vehicles from the roads to the river.
The call was made as part of the LCCI’s response to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which proposes to move more freight off London’s streets and onto the River Thames. Chief Executive of LCCI, Colin Stanbridge commented:
“In effect, the Thames is an underused superhighway which flows through the heart of our capital, surely we should look to maximise its potential. As London continues to grow and more infrastructure is built it makes sense to ease some of the congestion on our roads. TfL is already working with Network Rail and the Port of London Authority to move freight off the streets and a River Commission could take this work to the next level, inviting views from interested parties.”
The LCCI believes that a River Commission could operate within an agreed time remit, taking evidence from all interested parties and producing a final report of practical recommendations. Currently 90% of all freight in the capital is moved by road although some major construction projects have already made use of the river, demonstrating further possibilities. These include the Crossrail development which has seen more than 3 million tonnes of excavated material taken away by river, saving half a million truck trips on London’s roads.
Historically of course much of London’s wealth was built on use of the river for freight transport. At one time it was said you could walk across the Pool of London, adjacent to the site of Tower Bridge, crossing from barge to barge without touching the water. With the establishment of DP World’s London Gatewayport, and the re-establishment of barge services in construction projects it seems logical to investigate the possibilities of the extension of water borne services.
The new generation of electrically and hybrid powered ferries and other craft suitable for short haul work make the possibility of the river returning at least some way toward its former glory days as an artery for trade of all sorts.
Photo: A barge loaded with hay moves downriver heading east toward the Tower of London.