Memorandum by Humber Barges (IW 07)
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
1. Humber Barges Ltd is a new company established
to promote the carriage of freight by barge, principally on the
inland waterways radiating from the Humber estuary inland towards
and to York, Leeds, Rotherham, and Nottingham, capitalising on
the Government's 1998 White Paper on Integrated Transport and
its follow up papers on "Sustainable Distribution" and
"Waterways for Tomorrow".
We are considerably encouraged and heartened
by the positive comments and policies contained in these, documents
but it is also fair to say that we are disappointed at the apparent
lack of any reference to waterways and funding for development
of waterway freight contained in the latest document: "Transport
2010. The Ten Year Plan."
We would comment on the Daughter White Paper
specifically as follows:
6.64 "an important source
of income"this is a two edged sword, but could, of
course, be of considerable significance if our proposals for funding
(below) are adopted and increased freight traffic brings increased
income. There has been no ship/barge activity of any consequence
at Caldaire terminal for many years. We are not aware of any carriers
who were involved in the "pilot study of the demand for freight"
described. Who produced this document and when will it be published
for comment? Regarding the "Waste by Water initiative"
we understand that this had already been set up by a private contractor
and for some reason has been taken over by British Waterways.
6.68 We would very much wish
to be represented on the "inland waterways freight study
2. The Company has identified a number of
traffic flows, some of which are internal, and some of which link
ports with inland destinations. These traffics are very suitable
for barge transport and amount to many hundreds of thousands of
tonnes per annum.
3. Commodities include coal, aggregates,
silica sand, fluorspar, timber, steel (partly finished and finished),
grains and animal foods, waste material, fly ash, scrap metal,
copra, fertiliser etc.
4. Craft of 250-500 tonnes carrying capacity
have been/are being acquired and placed into traffic.
5. In order to persuade shippers and forwarders
to place their traffics on the waterways we need to be able to
offer a service that is competitive in terms of cost, reliability,
and convenience when compared to road transport.
6. Most shipments to/from seagoing ships
are large and need an "uplift" capacity to take (say)
2-3,000 tonnes. Though some storage may be possible in the docks,
this to some extent nullifies the convenience of going "overside"
direct from ship to craft without landing, and without recourse
to large fleets of lorries. At the inland destination, it is often
the case that storage is required and this is most conveniently
located at a terminal wharf, from where the customer can "call
off" as required.
7. Barges are an integral part of the international
shipping chain and are an extension of the worldwide "feeder"
system of transport (The "hub and spoke") which both
gathers and distributes cargo to gain the economies of scale of
deep sea shipping.
It is essential that Government and
Planners understand that waterways are an extension of the Port
system and that deep and short sea vessels can load and discharge
to and from barges either direct or via the quay. The effect this
will have on reducing road traffic is profound.
8. Taking the larger waterways such as the
Aire & Calder Navigation as an example it is neccessary to
look upon these as being the "water equivalent" of the
motorway, and the barge as being a large "floating lorry/floating
warehouse". A waterway such as this could take 2,000 lorries
a day off the adjacent road(s); even now the A&C carries some
two million tonnes/annumof considerable significance in
reducing road traffic in the area through which it passes.
9. In order to compete on equal terms with
road, passage through the waterway(s) needs to be as efficient
and inexpensive as possible, both for the operator and the waterway
Locks and swing/lift bridges which are already
generally mechanically operated by roving or resident lock keepers
(or by barge crews exceptionally) need to be further automated
so that they can be controlled safely from a central point or
points rather as signals, points, and level crossings are operated
on a modern railway. This is not "rocket science" technology
and various examples of lock and bridge automation can be studied
across the Channel in Continental Europe. This would enable the
waterway(s) to be open for passage of craft 24 hours, and to be
operated far more economically.
10. Track access charges are a major cost
worry for barge operators and are typically TWICE that charged
for access to the UK rail system, those rail charges themselves
being currently the subject of critical comment by rail operators
as being "far too high compared to rail track access abroad".
These tracks access charges (generally known
as "tolls" or "dues") are levied by the waterway
administrations, typically British Waterways, or the Thames Navigation
Authority (EA), or the Manchester Ship Canal, or Harbour or Dock
companies such as Associated British Ports. By contrast, access
to waterways abroad is usually free of any charges, or the charges
levied are very small.
We strongly recommend the approach to rail freight
access as recently published in a Consultation Document from the
Rail Regulator. Changing the wording to reflect the waterway context
this would read
"Freight operators have generally
argued that waterway access charges should be as low as possible
to ensure that water can compete with other modes. Access charges
should, therefore, in their view, be no higher than the waterways'
avoidable costs from freight operations.
In addition, they argue that these
avoidable costs should reflect the waterway authorities' potential
for improved efficiency and that this potential should be measured
against international best practice. They generally argue that
the variable change (should read "charge"?) should
be low to reflect their view of marginal costs of freight operations".
However, better still that there be no charges to the operator.....
11. In order to attract more freight traffic
on the waterways we suggest a radical change in the way that tolls:
and dues are charged thus:
(a) Barges should be licensed or registered
at a nominal charge per annum eg £1 per tonne of carrying
capacity, or (say) £100 per annum for a tug. This would enable
the craft to ply free of charge on all the waterways accessible
ie as limited only by sizea national licence just like
a lorry. (nb barges or craft that operated solely on "free"
waterways such as the tidal Thames would not need to be licensed.)
It should be noted that there is a precedent in that Narrow Boats
and small barges operating on the BW (1968 Act) non-"Commercial"
waterways are already licensed in this way and do not pay tolls
but there is no incentive payment for BW from government to encourage
such traffic either.
(b) Waterway authorities need to be incentivised
to provide and improve the track and facilities. The "daughter"
White Paper mentions (paragraph 6.69) grants to be paid directly
to navigation authorities. Instead of offering Track Access Grants
to operators or their customers for selected traffics, (which
involves a great deal of paperwork and civil servant time), the
Government should pay the waterway authorities a sum for each
tonne carried per milethis could be, for example, one penny
per tonne/mile, and this would equate to many of the tolls currently
(c) The above would require co-operation
between the waterway authorities but this already exists to some
extent with the recent arrangements for joint licensing of pleasure
12. We suggest also that British Waterways
and the other navigation authorities should consult the carriers
and prospective carriers as to improvements that could be made
which would encourage new traffics. Examples of improvements on
B W in the N E might include:
Relocation of Newark Nether lock
(Trent Navigation) to enable longer craft to navigate to Nottingham,
taking advantage of the large lock size to compensate for lack
Conducting a feasibility study to
ascertain what effect a lock at or near Torksey would have on
carrying capacity of vessels using the upper reaches of the tidal
Re-locating Castleford Flood Lock
so as to considerably improve the ease of navigation at this tricky
Automation and centralised control
of locks and bridges as described earlier.
Improvements to waterway and channel
widths (eg on Aire & Calder) to improve steering/safety and
enable higher speed of transit.
13. British Waterways (at least) should
be provided with a "pot of money" each year to be used
for developing freight by way of research, and also for speculative
"track improvements/automation" in consultation with
carriers/prospective carriers. A source of considerable anxiety
is the rapid loss of freight wharves and terminals on the waterways.
It is imperative that steps be taken to ensure that no more are
lost. It should be inconceivable in the light of Government policy
that, for example, a busy aggregate wharf in Leeds should be closed
down in favour of re-development as up-market town housing or
officesyet this will be happening soon. Steps should be
taken to identify and protect the Public Wharves which
the original navigation companies were required to provide (presumably
indefinitely) and which the barge operators and customers could
use without charge or restriction (other than reasonable restrictions
on placing of cranes and so forth). It is believed that British
Waterways are currently denying the existence of such wharves
and rights particularly where such a wharf could be sold for redevelopment.
Freight wharves should be considered as being
"part of the waterway scene" (as abroad) and not something
that is always considered undesirable near housing or public amenity.
14. Steps should be taken to encourage planners
to do all that is possible to encourage the location of industry
on the waterside so as to take fullest advantage of the environmental
and economic benefits of using the waterway. By locating waterside
one of the major cost disincentivestranshipment and (re)delivery
by roadis eliminated.
Planners and Government must recognise the advantage
of waterborne traffic. An example of this is demonstrated in the
recent construction of the Saint Gobain glass factory at Eggborough.
It was built about 1.5 miles from the Aire & Calder Navigationa
major freight waterway. If it had been built alongside the canal
the factory could have received its raw materials (about 500,000
tonnes/annum) by barge direct into the production line, instead
of by road or (congested) rail.
15. Smaller waterways such as the Leeds
& Liverpool Canal, the Calder & Hebble Navigation, and
the Grand Union Canal (and even the narrow canals)the "historic
waterways"can also play a part for "niche"
trafficsespecially over short distances,helping
to reduce road traffic in a particular locality. We welcome the
proposal (paragraph 6.68) to look further into this, and would
be happy to assist, some of our Directors having had experience
(and some success) in the past in this particular type of operation.
16. On the larger "commercial"
waterways the needs of the freight craft operator must be paramount,
so that, for example, pleasure craft are not moored on the approach
to locks, and on all waterways freight craft should have priority
as has always been the custom. Having said that, we see no reason
why freight, pleasure craft, recreation and tourism should not
co-exist happily as is the case on continental waterways. In our
experience the vast majority of pleasure craft crews, and the
general public alike are delighted to see freight barges operatingwhether
they be the traditional and colourful narrow boats of the smaller
waterways, or a 500 tonner laden with steel or aggregates on one
of the north eastern waterways.
21 September 2000