Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2000
60. How far is that transported on the roads
before it gets to your wharf, where you can offload it onto your
(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
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.
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
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
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.
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
(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.