Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Inland Waterways Association (IT 30)


  The Inland Waterways Association welcomes the opportunity to make a response to the proposals contained in the White Paper. The Association is a registered charity, founded in 1946 and campaigns for the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways. It has over 18,000 members whose interests include boating, towpath walking, industrial archaeology, nature conservation and many other activities associated with the inland waterways.

  IWA has made comments to the Government in respect of water based transport and its role in an integrated transport network in our response of 13 November 1997 to Claire Spink regarding the DETR's "Developing an integrated transport policy" (copy attached). These comments are still pertinent, however those set out below refer specifically to the White Paper.

  After many years of the "predict and provide" approach to transport provision, the White Paper provides a welcome acceptance of the need for change. The White Paper in itself heralds a whole new change of climate and while such change can be expected to take place only slowly, it is hoped that it will be a permanent process.

  While there may be problems of finding parliamentary time for possible legislative change it is vital to set in motion the policies embodied in the White Paper itself. There is a considerable time lag between the inception and commissioning of any substantial waterway project so that lack of parliamentary time is of less immediate significance than maintaining the momentum in the policies proposed. Much initially is concerned with changing attitudes rather than laws.

  The White Paper appears to be dominated by strategies to deal with passenger transport and it is imperative that the transfer of freight from road to other modes is given equal status. While LGVs may be only a small proportion of road vehicles the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution provided ample evidence that they cause a disproportionate share of environmental damage. For the Government to give priority to the movement of people would be to negate the very concept of an integrated policy which in essence is concerned with harmonisation of all types of transport.

  The section of the White Paper dealing specifically with inland waterways transport is 3.183 to 3.188 and we are in general agreement with the proposals. However, there are other sections of the White Paper which have a possible bearing on waterways and where we feel that the role of inland shipping could be made more explicit and for which some elaboration is desirable.

  1.7 Cost of congestion—freight transport by water can help to reduce road congestion and can be a reliable component in just-in-time delivery.

  1.10 Lorry traffic forecasts—freight transferred to rail or water would reduce the rate of road transport growth.

  1.20 The challenge of sustainable transport—water transport is demonstrably the most effective mode in terms of its use of finite resources, and the least damaging in environmental terms.

  1.22 Quality of life—water transport is the only mode which can be developed to actually enhance the environment. Properly planned it can be associated with recreation and amenity development, waterside parks and habitats, improved drainage, flood control, water transfer and supply—and is unique among mode in being able to do this. In association with proper land-use planning directives to prevent excessive road transport use in sensitive areas, water transport development can be an element in environmental improvement. Safeguarding of wharves must be an integral part of such planning.

  1.26 Local transport plans invariably give priority to the movement of people and must place greater emphasis on strategies to deal with freight movement.

  1.42, 2.15, 2.20 Covered under the other headings.

  2.35 Could, and should, be applied to freight.

  2.69 The environmentally friendly character of water transport needs highlighting.

  3.41 We wait until this point in the White Paper to get our first specific mention of water transport and then without elaboration on its possible role in integrated freight movement.

  3.170-3.177 Quality partnerships—this appears to be almost entirely concerned with the road haulage industry. Quality partnerships should be considered for all modes and there is certainly scope for this in the development of the waterways. The only positive aspect is the proposed national lorry network—a suggestion made by the ISG in its response to the Green Paper.

  3.179-3.182 (and 3.209) Deals with the shipping industry but fails to mention the onward movement from ports by modes other than road. Even in the following paragraph on inland waterways there is no mention of their possible role in this—surprisingly at a time when barge-carrier systems have been given a new lease of life (Immingham-Goole). Could it be that the lack of mention of this form of integrated onward movement from ports reflects the lack of integration within the DETR of the international, coastal and inland components of shipping? Is 3.209, bullet point two, as far as they go can go in this respect?

  3.213 For a White Paper on integrated transport not to include the waterways link which exists with Europe (by river-sea ships and barge-carrying vessels) is a serious omission. The Government should be pressing the EU for a revision of regulations to allow for the inclusion of UK waterways in TENs and thereby making available EU financial assistance for waterways improvement schemes.

  4.3 The Inland Shipping Group (ISG) sees advantages in the Integrated DETR and hopes that this will result in more effective land-use planning at all levels. However, this still does not address the problem of divided responsibility in relation to water transport as a whole, hence ISG's suggestion that there should be a unit within the DETR able to coordinate policy with respect to waterways within the broader framework of shipping.

  4.156-4.157 The Group has always maintained that a coherent land-use planning policy in relation to transport is an essential prerequisite to ensure transfer of freight from roads to other modes.

  4.165 We welcome this.

  4.169 A welcome policy but it is necessary to ensure that when local planning authorities are producing strategic plans they give the fullest consideration to each component, not allowing any single area (e.g., housing) to dominate their thinking.

  4.170 Welcome step—agrees with our response to Green Paper but may need to be backed by direction and regulation.

  4.171-4.175 While better guidelines and an improved spirit of co-operation between the development industry, local authorities and planning bodies would be welcome we feel that these policies may become diluted and integration made more difficult by the newly evolving structure of regional government.


  No mention of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution recommended targets for water freight—these should be accepted and worked towards.

  With regard to the specific recommendations for water transport contained in the White Paper we doubt that an effective machinery is yet in place to ensure that they are anything but fine words.

  In putting forward our seven broad proposals (see Panel 1, below) for moving on from the White Paper we hope that the ISG could be more fully involved in the policy making process—our inclusion in the Shipping Working Group would, we feel, have provided a valuable way of ensuring that inland shipping is fully integrated into coastal and international shipping as a part of a wider integrated transport policy.


    —  In order for the new "Commission for Integrated Transport" to have a balanced view there must be a section within the DETR that co-ordinates policies for the development of traffic on inland and coastal waterways and short sea routes.

    —  Track Access Grants, now for railways only, must be extended to inland waterways.

    —  There needs to be a national register of waterside sites, which have existing or potential use for handling freight or for the location of waterway using industries, similar to the 1996 scheme for safeguarding of 30+ wharves on the River Thames.

    —  A programme must be prepared for the improvement of selected existing waterways, and for examining the potential for new developments which maximise modal integration.

    —  Linked by River-Sea shipping with mainland waterways, selected UK waterways must be included as a part of the Trans-European Network Programme.

    —  When promoting the transfer of freight from roads, the water transport option must always be made explicit.

    —  For the White Paper to have any reasonable impact, the Government must implement at least the targets for waterborne freight set by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1994)—from 25 per cent to 30 per cent of tonnes/kms moved—by the year 2010.

Neil Edwards

Executive Director

23 September 1998

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 28 April 1999