THE Freight Transport Association’s Freight by Water group says the steady volume of freight moved on the UK’s inland waterways last year is encouraging but more must be done to promote growth.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has just released its 2015 statistics for domestic waterborne freight, including that carried by barges and seagoing vessels on rivers and canals.
Overall, the total amount of goods moved for all domestic waterborne freight increased by 16% to 31.4 billion tonne kilometres (bt-k) in 2015. Goods moved by domestic water transport accounted for 15% of total domestic freight traffic in the UK. However, inland waters traffic was a relatively small proportion of this and remained steady at 1.5 bt-k.
Alex Veitch, FTA’s policy lead for water freight, said: “It is encouraging to see that the volume of inland water freight has remained steady, but it has the potential to make a significant contribution to alleviating road traffic congestion in London and other major cities across the UK.
“Unfortunately there are many planning and regulatory barriers that prevent this from happening so the Freight by Water group is calling for the establishment of a national Strategic Water Network to overcome these barriers and enable shippers to make more use of this key resource.”
Of the navigable waterways, the Thames and Kent region handled the most domestic traffic in the UK in 2015. This is largely due to the River Thames handling more than four times the volume of freight moved than any other inland waterway in 2015. In terms of goods lifted, the River Thames lifted around 22.3 million tonnes of freight – 47% of the total traffic on waterways.
Freight by Water’s report ‘Lessons from the Thames’, which was released in July, made recommendations for how to improve the infrastructure and planning procedures to boost the water freight market in this key region.