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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 72)



  60. How far is that transported on the roads before it gets to your wharf, where you can offload it onto your barges?
  (Mr Johnson) I suppose the average distance is about three miles, but clearly it is very little in the City of London because that is a very confined area. It would be more if you were bringing it in from the northern reaches of Kensington, let us say.

  61. Do you think there is anything more that your company or companies like you can do to persuade people to take their rubbish to the Thames and get it on your barges?
  (Mr Johnson) Yes, we can be the cheapest in the next tender. That is the way of getting more waste onto the river. We have achieved what we have achieved in London without any public subsidy at all. We have had to do it by winning tenders and doing it competitively. We have been successful in doing that to date, but it is quite tough.
  (Dr Hilling) In the longer term, with greater emphasis on incinerating waste and recycling, there is potential for considerable increases in traffic. We have already seen developments on the Lea Navigation which would be moving waste from the Hertfordshire direction southwards to the Edmonton incinerator and possibly northwards. Even now, there is one firm which, with a freight facilities grant, is consolidating disused car batteries at Enfield and moving those by barge to a recycling plant across the river on the south side, a relatively short journey, but each barge load saves something like 940 lorry miles. That is just one initiative and I think there is scope for a lot more, because waste and recycling at the moment is very fragmented about the country and I think there is a lot of scope for rationalisation.

  62. Could you expand a bit on the idea of incineration of waste and then transporting it?
  (Dr Hilling) After incineration, there is a residue—

  63. You will realise there is a great opposition generated against incineration in this country. It is being souped up all the time. Nobody wants incinerators and yet they are a practical way of rendering waste into a form which can easily be transported. Is that true?
  (Dr Hilling) That is certainly true.

Christine Butler

  64. So far, we have talked about cargo and could it be increased. We have talked about waste, steel, coal, sand, gravel. What about timber? Are there any others before you leave because we are not going to get industry into this inquiry except yourselves? Are there any others existing and is there any potential for growth of any type of commodity?
  (Mr Lowe) Any type of commodity that is not particularly time sensitive. People talk about the length of time it takes to transport but in the case of import and export, if something has been on the high seas for ten days, another half day is neither here nor there.

  65. What commodities?
  (Mr Lowe) The most difficult commodities to transfer are containerised, because most of our waterways are not large enough for containers. Anything that is not containerised. Palletised goods are okay. Anything in bulk form can be taken by barge.

  66. As towns and cities expand and different uses are made, port facilities tend to go further downstream towards the sea. People do not want them. St Katherine's Dock is a good example. Mrs Dunwoody was talking earlier about Docklands and so on. That seems to be reflected in towns and big cities. Is that your problem? Do you think the wharfage needs to be moved and that the hinterland around the future wharfage needs to be looked at? In other words, where are you going wrong with planning?
  (Mr Lowe) We need to encourage planners here. Let me give you a recent example: a glassworks has recently been located only a mile and a half or so away from a major waterway, the Aire and Calder Navigation near Nottingley. If the planners had encouraged the owners of the factory to locate waterside, which I guess they could have done as there is plenty of spare land there, they could have had all their glass sand brought in by barge instead of road. I think planners can play an important part in this. It is, first of all, to encourage waterside location of industry where there is new development. Secondly, to encourage the retention and development of waterside wharfage. Instead of losing it, we should be retaining it.


  67. How much are you losing?
  (Mr Lowe) All the time. It is incredible.
  (Dr Hilling) Over the last 12 years, something like 22 or 24 wharves have been lost on the Thames.

  68. What very specific encouragement do you need both to retain wharfage, to ensure they are developed, which is the point you are making, and to go on from there to get more freight. This three per cent increase: where is it coming from? What are the kind of bulk facilities that we are talking about? Is it only going to be waste? What are the answers to those questions?
  (Mr Lowe) The answers are in the commodities I have already identified to the Committee. I do not think I can enlarge upon the scope. It is pretty wide.
  (Dr Hilling) For example, all of the newsprint of News International comes in by road from the ports. The West Ferry printers in London Docks is on the waterside. It could be receiving it all by water. A trial was done and we brought the newsprint in.

  69. Was there an effort to go to that particular firm and say, "We are capable of doing this cheaper"?
  (Dr Hilling) Yes. A firm did a trial experiment. It worked very successfully. They were ready to go. We are still waiting to hear what happened.

  Chairman: So when it came to a commercial decision, they did not take it up, no matter how successful it was.

Christine Butler

  70. Developers who are proposing to develop in towns and cities now have to meet a substantial test if they are even thinking of building on a green field site. What do you think of the ideas of factories, processors, dealing with waste? Should they too meet sequential tests in terms of transport? Should they be nearer the river if that could accommodate all the objectives we want through integrated transport planning?
  (Mr Lowe) Yes, that would be extremely beneficial. We should encourage waterside development of industry, as is commonplace on the continent. It has been less common over here. I think somebody said that Ferry Bridge "C" Power Station was the last example of a waterside facility that was specifically developed for using a waterway.
  (Mr Johnson) You must remember, in just taking London alone, there are 16 riparian planning authorities and each one would like, whether it is a waste facility or any other kind of freight facility, to have it in the next borough, please. Secondly, you never get away from the point because it is at the heart of waterways for tomorrow. Waterways are nice places to live next to. You would not choose to live next to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link but you would choose to live next to the Thames. The sites are worth so much money that the owners are quite prepared to sit on them for decades and leave them unused, waiting for the planning authority to crumble and finally say, "Yes, okay. We will let that one through."

  71. We are in the regime of environmental impact assessment and things ought not to be looked at narrowly. It would not be for one planning authority on such a big cause; possibly there would be regional input too.
  (Mr Johnson) We need to get away from the localism that we are stricken with and to get a regional perspective.
  (Dr Hilling) The waterways tend to cut through a whole number of local authorities.


  72. You suggested a body. What form should that take?
  (Dr Hilling) Probably a coordinating body of some kind. It could be the same body that we are talking about.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, you have been very helpful to us. Thank you very much indeed. I am very grateful to you.

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