Memorandum by South Midland Water Transport
Ltd (IW 01)
INLAND WATERWAY TRAFFIC POTENTIAL
This Company is actively involved in the transport
of goods by narrow boat on the midlands network of the waterways
system. Our craft regularly navigate the British Waterways system
and the Thames and Nene Navigations of the Environmental Agency.
As a Company we submitted our views on the waterways general freight
potential to the DETR in 1997. I now submit our Potential Traffic
details for Summer 2000. You will appreciate that details of the
firms involved are confidential because negotiations are still
going forward, but we have no objection to details being published
with the names of the firms concerned omitted.
The following traffics are being actively pursued
at the present time.
1. MARKS &
SPENCER PLC RECYCLABLES
1.1 This traffic has been under consideration
since the early months of 1999. M & S, like many other large
retailers has a problem with the disposal and transport of paper
and cardboard packaging and trade waste of a similar nature, such
as showcards. It is no longer the practice for retail stores to
have large stockrooms, so goods for retail are held at Distribution
Depots until the local retail store computer indents for them.
The packaging is broken down, sometimes at the Distribution Depot
and sometimes at retail outlets, but is then disposed of in two
(a) by being packaged into bales;
(b) by being put loose into skips.
1.2 It so happens that M & S have a
Distribution Depot at Hayes, West London, not far from the Grand
Union Canal, and a temporary loading point can be arranged at
Norwood, nearby, through the co-operation of British Waterways.
Disposal has been a problem, the incinerator at Edmonton, East
London has been considered, and a trial load was taken there in
May 1999 using conventional narrow boats. Unfortunately, unloading
arrangements made this an unsuitable destination in the present
circumstances, but, given proper handlng equipment at the Edmonton
incinerator, the traffic could be handled in skips loaded into
Regents Canel-sized barges propelled by a pusher tug.
1.3 In Summer 2000 a further destination
was identified at the premises of Kappa Recycling Ltd, Saltley,
Birmingham. These adjoin the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal
and are on the site of an old canal dockyard. The recycling company
is interested in accepting consignments from the canal, and very
little needs to be done to arrange an unloading point, conceivably
some dredging of the canal alongside might be required, a wall
needs to be removed and replaced by gates, and some sort of lifting
equipment provided. A trial load was taken to Kappa in July 2000
from the Hayes Depot, using conventional narrow boats, but it
was discharged at Icknield Port BW depot and forwarded to Kappa's
premises by BW lorry. The first trial was coincident with two
public events, the first being the National Working Boat Gathering
at Braunston, the second being the Inland Waterways Exhibition
at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham. The boats concerned
attracted considerable favourable publicity in the media. A second
trial is currently (August 2000) being undertaken with, hopefully,
unloading taking place at an ad hoc site close to Kappa's
premises. The cubic capacity of narrow boats can be used fully,
and it can be shown that, properly loaded, a pair of boats can
carry as much as five lorries. A meeting is taking place shortly
with representatives of M & S, Kappa Recycling, BW and this
Company with a view to progressing the matter and establishing
exactly what traffics can be moved and where. If it is to develop
further, it will be necessary for M & S to acquire a canalside
storage depot for their recyclables so as to cut lorry movements
to the minimum. Alternative destinations in the Birmingham area
are canalside incinerators at Tyseley and Wolverhampton.
1.4 It is our belief, which is shared by
the persons at M & S with whom we are dealing, that where
they lead, other large retailers will follow.
1.5 There are further possibilities in South
Yorkshire, taking advantage of the larger craft which use these
waterways. Although this Company is not in a position to trade
in this area, we have been able to direct M & S personnel
towards suitable contacts.
2. RIVER NENE
2.1 This Company has been in contact with
Fenland District Council, now the authority for the Port of Wisbech.
The Council is anxious to develop the Port business and has been
hampered by the poor state of the roads which connect Wisbech
with its hinterland. Since the rail connections with the port
were removed any increase in business for the port means more
traffic on the Fenland roads, unless the option of using the River
Nene be taken. The main problem with the river is that it is currently
tidal, with a considerable tidal range, generating strong currents
and limiting the time each day that the river may be used. However
a proposal was put forward in December 1999 to construct a half
tide barrier downstream of Wisbech, which would go a long way
towards solving this problem. If the barrier is put below Sutton
Bridge, it will allow inland waterway craft regular access to
2.2 The traffics which could be developed
are mainly port-orientated and include Baltic timber, steel and
fertiliser inwards and grain outwards. With the lengthening of
the locks on the Middle Level Navigations it could be possible
to tranship at Kings Lynne as well, while a proposal to connect
the Nene with the Welland and Witham by making existing drains
navigable would draw Boston and Foss Bridge into the traffic possibilities.
Undoubtedly local traffic could proceed as far as Peterborough,
or an interchange could be made with the A1 or East Coast Main
Line. Additionally there is a potential internal traffic in bulk
oil absorbent materials, currently from a waterside plant upstream
to a Distribution Depot in Northamptonshire. See 2.4 below.
2.3 This Company carried out a trial movement
of timber for Messrs Travis Perkins Ltd in May 1999. The timber
originated in Eastern Sweden and was packaged suitably for narrow
boats at source. The result was that a satisfactory quantity was
loaded, and it is realistic to suppose that a total of 50 cubic
metres of packaged timber can be carried by one pair of boats.
This compares with 20 cubic metres carried by a flatback lorry.
A wide barge and pusher tug could, however, carry considerably
more, and the length of the River Nene locks upstream as far as
Northampton would allow for a barge to be 60 feet long, with the
pusher unit being 20 feet long with a potential payload of 75
cubic metres. Travis Perkins Ltd have premises close to the river
at Northampton, but currently there is nowhere to unload. The
trial load was unloaded adjacent to the A508 into TP's own vehicles.
A report of navigation conditions was duly submitted by this Company
to Fenland District Council and the Environment Agency as Navigation
Authority for the Nene. The quantity of timber imported by TP
through the Wash ports is in the order of 8,000 tonnes per annum.
2.4 The oil absorbent material mentioned
in 2.2 above is processed by a company at a dockside plant in
Wisbech. The basic raw material is imported from North America
by means of a LASH barge to Ipswich. It is then road hauled across
East Anglia to Wisbech. If the proposed improvements to the Nene
Estuary are carried out, it should be possible to bring the LASH
barges into Wisbech via The Wash and thus cut out the road haul
across country. By using barges and pushers as outlined above
in 2.3 the processed material could then be moved further inland
to a storage depot adjacent to the main motorway system. This
should be both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. This
Company has had discussions with Northampton Council Planning
Department and has identified a suitable site for a depot adjacent
to the A45 at Northampton. The potential inland tonnage from this
source is of the order of 4,000-6,000 tonnes per annum.
2.5 The whole question of River Nene traffic
needs looking into in depth (and see also 3 below). If a small
company such as this is able to identify the potential traffics
mentioned above, there is surely scope for a more formal inquiry.
As one of the few operators with any recent experience of this
waterway, we would be willing to assist in this both in an advisory
and in a practical role.
The carriage of aggregates by water has been
one in which narrow boats have played a significant part in recent
years, notably during the 1980s on a short haul traffic on the
River Soar below Leicester. However this Company has not taken
part in such operations, being doubtful as to the financial benefits
since aggregate haulage can cause serious damage to conventional
craft in the loading and unloading operations. Recently though
we have looked at three possibilities in the Northamptonshire
and North Buckinghamshire areas.
3.1 Carriage for a company from Wellingborough
to Wolverton. This Company has a processing plant adjacent to
the canal at Wolverton and a pit adjoining the River Nene below
Wellingborough. Whilst this would have to be carried by narrow
boat because of the intervening flight of narrow locks connecting
the Nene with the Grand Union Canal, it is a classic example of
a waterside to waterside traffic over a comparatively short distance.
The road traffic passes over crowded roads between Wellingborough
and Milton Keynes in a series of vehicles carrying 20 tonnes,
and performing two trips in a working day. The carriage cost would
seem to be in the region of £6.25 per tonne using road haulage.
It would be possible to match this rate with a two-handed pair
of boats making two trips per week and loading 40 tonnes to the
pair. Loading would be by gravity from a quarry tipper and unloading
by a works hydraulic digger. Potential traffic is in the region
of 5,000 tonnes per annum and would require the services of two
fully crewed pairs plus a standby single motor boat. As a long
term measure an increased traffic could be worked by purpose-built
narrow barges of about 50 feet length and pusher tugs. These barges
could be worked abreast on the Nene and through Grand Union wide
locks, and singly through the Northampton Arm and Blisworth Tunnel.
Trains of two loaded or empty barges could be made up above and
below the Northampton Arm locks, with a dedicated tug shuttling
the craft up and down the narrow lock flight.
3.2 Carriage for another company from a
proposed site near Yardley Gobion to Wolverton. The loading point
in question is subject to planning restrictions because of the
problems of removing the extracted gravel by means of the narrow
roads in the area. The quantities are at present unknown and the
whole proposal is some years in the future, but it is a traffic
which could be worked by conventional pairs of boats, pushers
and barges as outlined in 3.1 above, or wide barges either self-propelled
or moved by tugs. It is a classic short-haul movement involving
the passage of one lock (Cosgrove).
3.3 Carriage for a third company from a
proposed extraction site at Wolverton to Leighton Buzzard. This
would involve a haul of 18 miles and six locks, so is on the fringes
of economic viability, unless, as seems likely, the use of the
water transport option is a condition of Planning Consent. The
total tonnage would be 100,000 tonnes per annum over a five year
period. British Waterways would undoubtedly require some form
of recompense for such an intensive usage of the waterway, and
this might be the subject of a Freight Facilities Grant. We have
given Z Aggregates an estimate of the likely cost and the numbers
of craft and crew required, and have advised them of the information
which would be required in order to apply for an FFG. Because
of the popularity of this stretch of the Grand Union Canal with
pleasure craft, we have recommended that such traffic be worked
with conventional narrow boats fitted with removable skips.
As requested we enclose a disc containing the
above information for your use. We would appreciate being represented
on any Freight Consultation Group which might be set up, and are
prepared to offer our full assistance, both theoretically and
practically with any trials that might be made. We have at our
disposal carrying capacity for a single lift of up to 175 tonnes,
and can call on extra assistance if required.
15 August 2000