Memorandum by F A Andrews Esq (IW 02)
FREIGHT BY INLAND WATERWAY
Although mainland Europe has over many years
invested substantial funds in its inland commercial waterways,
Britain has by comparison over the same period made a very meagre
investment. It could be said that there are substantial lengths
of under used high quality waterway, under used mainly because
they are either difficult to reach or totally isolated. An example
of a wasteful but enforced practice comes from a regular operation
of barges loaded with aggregate around Trent Falls many times
a day to reach the Aire and Calder Navigation from the River Trent.
There are many reasons why the shorter journey via Thorne cannot
be used but one particularly important reason is a small lock
close to Thorne.
This lack of infrastructure investment in Britain
was recently highlighted in the press when the flooding of an
opencast coal mine at Methley forced British Waterways to arrange
for a new lock to be built at Lemonroyd. The principal evening
newspaper in Leeds used the following heading: "£20m
Yorks' Canal Opens, It's the First for 90 Years".
In the early post-war years France made a spectacular
start to waterway upgrading by adopting a new European standard
size for inland waterway craft. In effect, this raised permissible
barge loadings from the 300 tonne Péniche size to 1,350
DWT class IV loading which equated to the Rhine-Herne sized barges.
This initial upgrade, known as "La Liaison Dunkirk-Valenciennes",
made it possible for barges travelling inland from Dunkirk to
load up almost to 1,500 tonnes.
Another cross-border upgrade permitted class
IV barges to reach a steelworks close to Nancy but in this particular
case the access route was along the Moselle Valley through Germany.
A major engineering feat was the taming of the
River Rh¼ne from the Mediterranean Sea to Lyon. This 310km
journey was now open to low profile River/Sea vessels as far as
Although the Canal Lateral A La Garonne at Montech
is not a high capacity commercial waterway, the French showed
a certain amount of ingenuity when they replaced five locks with
a water slope. In effect two diesel locomotives push a wedge of
water carrying a barge up a sloping trough. Although mechanically
it is ingenious, it also saves a lot of water during each operation.
Whilst all this was being done, Belgium, Holland
and Germany were each improving their own waterway infrastructure
with one current project in Germany assuming mammoth proportions.
This is an upgrade of the Mittellandkanal and includes a new aqueduct
across the River Elbe.
It is not unusual for a vessel to load at a
factory well inland in Europe, navigate by inland navigations
to the coast, then sail across the North Sea only to tranship
the cargo to some form of land transport to complete the journey
in UK. Admitted, not all our industrial areas are close to a navigation
but if Britain had developed "European style" waterways
as a policy, a low-profile River/Sea vessel would probably have
been able to reach a final destination or at least a point not
too far away from it.
A very good example of British neglect over
the years comes from the River Severn and the Gloucester and Sharpness
Canal. At one time barges and coasters were regular visitors but
because of our lack of interest in waterways, regular traffic
has today almost disappeared. For instance, at infrequent intervals,
a sea-going ship does penetrate the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal
to load machinery that is too bulky to be transported by road
or rail. It could be interesting to hear from an economist just
how much extra money British industry has to find to maintain
our current "modus operandi" of transhipment at coastal
Before attempting to inject money into modernising
the network a certain amount of research will be needed to ensure
that future funding would be spent where it will be most effective.
My archives tell me that four major types of operation needed
to be considered.
1. Port to Port Coastal Vessels: Engaged
on local port to port traffic, these larger vessels will be mainly
using existing ports and estuaries and will thus not have the
same size restrictions imposed by the inland penetration of low-profile
River/Sea vessels trading with Europe. Coasters could be regarded
as class V.
2. Low-profile River/Sea Vessels: For inland
penetration this type of vessel will probably equate to class
3. Lash: The Lash lighter is much larger
than its twin, the Bacat lighter, and it is somewhat unfortunate
that many of the waterways under British Waterways control were
basically modified for Bacat operation only.
4. Barges Below 700 DWT: The S&SYN to
Rotherham and the A&CN to Leeds are thought of as 700 tonne
waterways and are too small for Lash lighters.
||Beam or Width||Draught (Depth)
|HUMBER||||Coastal Vessels (ie: class V)|
To Goole (Ouse) or Keadby (Trent)
||Low-Profile River/Sea vessels (ie: class IV) and LASH to Selby (Ouse) (1) or Newark (Trent) (2) and possibly to an upgraded route to Doncaster
||Motor barges (ie: 700 DWT)|
To York (Ouse): Leeds (A&CN): Rotherham (S&SYN) and Nottingham (Trent)
|THAMES||||Coastal vessels as far as Tower Bridge (3)
||Low-profile River/Sea vessels and LASH lighters probably to current limit of commercial navigation
||Motor barges to tidal limit|
|SEVERN||||Coastal vessels to Gloucester (4)|
Low-profile River/Sea vessels, LASH and Motor Barges as far as Worcester
|MERSEY||||Coastal vessels to Salford and Anderton (5)
|WEAVER & MSC||
||Low-profile River/Sea vessels, LASH and motor barges as above but with deeper penetration if required
1. Small sea going vessels were once regular visitors
to Selby BOCM.
2. A 1979 study suggested 1,800 DWT as far as Newark.
3. The LRA (London River Association) formed to promote
a viable working Thames.
4. The then BWB suggested improvements as far as Worcester.
5. The upper MSC appears to have regained some of its
14 August 2000