Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 335 - 339)



  Q335  Chairman: Good afternoon and welcome. I apologise for keeping you well over time, but there was a number of issues which colleagues wanted to follow up. By way of general introduction, would you like to say what you think the role of water freight is or can be in helping Britain meet its targets for reducing carbon emissions?

  Dr Leggate: The various studies show that the carbon emissions from water freight transport is substantially less than road, and indeed rail. Depending on the studies you look at, we can see that in terms of inland shipping and coastal shipping carbon dioxide emissions are about 63% less than road and about 25% less than rail. There is actually a study by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution which demonstrated even higher percentages. So in terms of carbon emissions, water freight is a very effective form of transport and a lot of the infrastructure is already in place, so it is not a question of new technology, it is already there.

  Q336  Chairman: Were you disappointed that the Climate Change Programme Review did not refer to the potential of shifting freight from road to water?

  Dr Leggate: We are always disappointed to be forgotten.

  Q337  Chairman: Why do you think that was? Given from what you have said there is an obvious agenda, why do you think they ignored it?

  Dr Leggate: I think generally water freight does not get very much attention at all and it is something which is not even thought about. I was listening to the evidence given just now and water was not even mentioned and I am really quite shocked about that, because in terms of our organisation, Sea and Water, we are actually quite happy to promote rail as well as water. There is talk about ports, but I think we should also talk about the potential for coastal and inland shipping in any freight transport strategy.

  Q338  Chairman: What do you think the keys are to shifting freight from road to water?

  Dr Leggate: What do we need to achieve it?

  Q339  Chairman: Yes, what policies, instruments?

  Dr Leggate: I think there are various things. One is trying to streamline the planning process which does not allow for easy development of ports and waterside facilities, so I think a lot needs to be done in that area. There is also the issue that in terms of competing with road transport there is not this level playing field that everybody talks about because road users do not pay the true cost in terms of externalities, and in certain areas that means it is quite hard for some shipping operators to compete with their own transport. I think that is an area which needs addressing and will presumably be addressed when road pricing actually comes in. Thirdly, there needs to be some investment in the infrastructure, particularly as far as inland waterways are concerned, and it is actually not very much in terms of money. One good example is for the Olympic Games and we have been pushing quite hard for water to be used for transporting to construction sites and actually servicing those construction sites, but actually there needs to be some investment in the waterways in certain locks, which is relatively small, round about 10 to £15 million. It is very difficult to get people to take that decision, although the construction companies themselves are very keen to use water in that instance and are prepared to invest in new vessels in order to do that. Estimates by British Waterways show that that sort of initiative, using the waterways to service the construction sites, could take half a million lorries off London's roads. We are finding it difficult to get people to take those decisions. In fact the planning permission was given on the basis of road transportation, which does not help.

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