Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2000
20. Presumably they are prepared to pay a premium?
Is that so?
(Mr Johnson) I think they are prepared to pay a small
premium but the externalities of any transport operation are not
fully taken into account in terms of the economics, as I am sure
you all know. That is even more the case with waste management.
If you can access a site by river, clearly you are not inconveniencing
the people who live on the route and around and about. Usually,
transport is the biggest externality of any waste management operation.
If you get it out in the middle of the river, it does not affect
anybody, but it benefits seven or eight million peoplewhatever
it is in Londonand the surrounding counties and you are
requiring a relatively small number of people to pay for that.
21. Mr Johnson, you gave a fairly modest projection
as to how much of an increase you could generate. I think you
said around three per cent. Is that because local authorities
do not have a great deal of enthusiasm for giving you this extra
(Mr Johnson) My three per cent was the national total
of what might be achievable in terms of freight management. In
terms of water movement of waste, we could look at perhaps a 30
or 40 per cent increase, but you must always remember, when you
start a journey, you have to finish it somewhere. You have to
have somewhere to take it to and there are major problems with
planning issues on that.
22. Dr Hilling, you refer to possible international
status being applied for, particularly for routes such as the
Humber and the Ouse. Were you surprised that in the original inland
waterways glossy document of the government's, Waterways for
Tomorrow, coastal shipping and short haul shipping were left
(Dr Hilling) Yes. The point is often forgotten in
talking about our waterways that, if you look at the government
statistics on freight carriage on waterways, the figure that comes
out is something like 57/58 million tonnes at the moment. The
figure that is often quoted is about four million tonnes, which
is simply that carried on the British Waterways part of the network.
If we take that 57 million tonnes, something like 60 per cent
of that is foreign traffic that is penetrating our waterways to
wharves on the Thames, the Trent, a port like Goole, which has
been our fastest growing port in recent years, but very much an
23. Are you implying that it is good or bad
to have foreign traffic?
(Dr Hilling) How can we do without it? We are dependent
on our ports and ports on inland waterways are very much a part
24. The government has now accepted an amendment
to the Transport Bill so that coastal shipping and short sea shipping
will be introduced. Pursuing freight facilities grants, the take
up by both inland waterways and railways has been very poor. What
other measures would you like to see taken to encourage the industry
to apply for more grants both for non-capital as well as for capital
(Dr Hilling) Are you thinking entirely of the foreign
25. No; domestic and foreign traffic.
(Dr Hilling) I think it is a question of the tolls
that are the significant one, and we would go along with that.
26. You would prefer to see them replaced by
a licence fee?
(Dr Hilling) Yes. That would make it equitable certainly
with road transport.
27. You do not see a role for freight facility
(Dr Hilling) Freight facility grants and the extension
of them to coastal shipping will be valuable because the division
between inland and coastal is a somewhat spurious division really.
This is all part of our domestic waterway system. Maybe "inland"
is not the word we should be using. "Domestic" is better
and that includes that wonderful, natural ring road that we have
with these radial routes provided by waterways.
28. How can we use that radial route more?
(Dr Hilling) There has been ongoing research. For
example, roll on/roll off traffic from the north of England to
the south of England. A lot of container traffic that is coming
into our ports moves on by road. On the continent, it would almost
certainly move on by water. For example, if you have containers
coming into Southampton, they could be transferred to west coast
and east coast ports with feeder ships, as containers going into
Rotterdam are fed to Antwerp and to other continental ports. That
could all be traffic taken off the roads.
(Mr Lowe) On freight facility grants, one thing is
to make it easier for us to apply for them and work out what the
grant potential might be. Secondly, if we go down the nominal
licence road, there will need to be some form of track access
grant payable to the waterway authorities to cover their costs.
Thirdly, maybe some kind of speculative grant for refurbishment
of barges or new build. Can I refer you back to the 1930s where
the government made money available for barges that were horse
drawn to have engines installed. Possibly also we need to look
at the establishment of a government agency to encourage freight
onto the waterways, rather similar to the SSRA I suppose, which
would encompass freight.
29. I thought we were suffering from rather
a lot of agencies involved in the waterways already. Are you seriously
suggesting another one?
(Mr Lowe) Maybe an existing agency could take over
(Dr Hilling) This would be the same argument applied
to the railways.
Christine Butler: The costly externality costs
are to do with the transhipment costs. We have to overcome that
nationally. Could you identify those costs? Is it to do with the
time in transhipment for getting a water borne cargo onto a lorry,
30. Is there any identification of a particular
(Dr Hilling) I do not think these costs are really
related to time. Most of the cargoes we are talking about are
not particularly time sensitive. They are much more costs relating
to the actual physical handling of the equipment that is needed
for that handling at the interface between the water and land
31. That is not there?
(Dr Hilling) A lot of it is disappearing very rapidly.
It has happened along the Thames with respect to waste handling
facilities, just up the road here. A whole number of aggregates
handling wharves have been disappearing in recent years. These
are wharves which take the low cost, bulk goods as near to the
market as possible.
(Mr Johnson) If we took containers to the port of
Tilbury and took them off there, the commercial charges would
be about £120 per container, on and off. That would add about
£10 a tonne to the cost of the operation, which is rather
more than the total cost of the water transport part in between.
32. You control the whole of your own operation,
(Mr Johnson) We do. Our own costs are about £1.50
a tonne per movement.
33. You are also saying that your capital costs
are becoming a problem if you need to replace equipment?
(Mr Johnson) If we had to replace it all in one go,
it would be a very big problem.
34. Following on from this question of proliferation
of agencies involved, to what extent are both navigation and business
opportunities hindered by the number of different agencies involved
and the fact that canals are owned by so many different people?
(Dr Hilling) There certainly have been examples in
the past where the division of authority between waterways has
meant that getting goods through one authority onto the waterways
of another has proved difficult. One very innovative form of transport
was barges on a mother ship, barges taken off the mother ship,
which could then be moved into the waterway system was started,
technically feasible and working very efficiently. Then it came
to a stop because there was opposition from the authority that
controlled the lower part of the through waterway, effectively.
Another possible examples goes back to tolls. There are cases
where barges move from one waterway to another and would be subject
to two quite separate lots of tolls. British Waterways and the
Manchester Ship Canal would be an example of that. There would
be two tolls levied.
35. Would you support the creation of a single
agency that took responsibility for all aspects of waterways?
(Dr Hilling) All aspects or all freight aspects?
36. All freight aspects.
(Dr Hilling) Yes, that might be justifiable.
37. You mentioned that you were not getting
the assistance that you needed in terms of identifying the environmental
benefits. Perhaps you could say a little more about that, but
perhaps you could also comment on what conflict you see there
being between freight and the environment?
(Mr Lowe) Going back to the freight facilities grant,
we do find it difficult to work out the computation of the figures.
We would welcome assistance from the Department. At the moment,
they are telling us they cannot do it for us and we have to do
it ourselves. Secondly, on FFGs again, there is a problem which
needs addressing. There is a considerable difference in the environmental
benefit between freight taken off ordinary roads, urban roads,
dual carriageways and motorways. While one would perhaps have
sympathy with the view that there should be a greater benefit
payable for freight taken off urban roads, nevertheless the difference
is quite astonishing. I think it is £1.50 per movement per
milea movement being a lorry of courseon an urban
road. I think it is 20p on a motorway. Sometimes we are in a position
on the Aire and Calder to take traffic off maybe 10 or 20 miles
of motorway, but the benefit payable is very small. Moving on
to your second question, you asked about any potential conflict
of an environmental nature. I think not. In my experience over
30 years or so of operating barges on the waterways, people who
are enjoying the waterway in pleasure craft or just walking along
the towpath are very pleased to see the waterways being used in
this way. As an example, recently I took an unconverted, ex-freight
carrying, narrow boat around the canals of the Midlands. I lost
count of the number of times when people said, "What are
you carrying? Is it all going to happen again? Are you restarting?"
I thought that was wonderful. The short answer to you is, generally
speaking, no, there is no conflict.
(Dr Hilling) I do not think there should be much conflict
on the waterways in terms of movement. You only have to look at
continental waterways to see that the two go quite happily together.
I think there is some scope for conflict possibly at the terminals
on the waterside. This is one of the reasons why local authorities
have been desperately keen to get rid of a lot of these. Cargo
handling is not always neighbour friendly. It can create dust
and noise. This is essentially a planning, environmental design
problem. It is a challenge. It should not be a reason for saying
that therefore we get rid of all freight handling terminals.
(Mr Lowe) In Leeds some years ago an aggregate wharf
was moved out of the terminal basin because of the development
of the Royal Armouries. It was not seen to be compatible. People
going to visit the Armouries would not want to see barges being
unloaded. I find this a strange concept. Why should they not see
barges being unloaded? It is part of the waterways scene and always
has been. It should be part of it. Ironically enough, that wharf
is disused so people going to the armouries have nothing to see.
38. Are you not being mildly naive?
(Mr Lowe) Yes, I am.
39. When people start developing a waterfront,
the properties are suddenly worth a very great deal more. Indeed,
an aggregate wharf with the best will in the world, even if it
had different coloured aggregates and was a matter of great modern
art, would not produce the same return as three or four rat infested
(Mr Lowe) On that basis, I must totally agree.