Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by Rolandon Water and Sea Freight Advisory Services (IW 59A)


  1.  At present, on the freight waterways, barges pay a toll for the use of the waterways. This toll depends upon the type of cargo being carried (with a higher toll being levied on higher value cargoes) and upon the mileage being travelled. Tolls have to be paid to each navigational authority and therefore there can be a multiplicity of tolls being charged for a single journey.

  2.  In his evidence to the Committee, David Lowe of Humber Barges advocated the abolition of tolls. He pointed out that lorries pay a licence, which is a flat amount regardless of types of goods being carried or distances travelled. When giving oral evidence and in answer to a question, Mr Lowe hazarded the suggestion that the licence fee should be £1 per annum for each tonnage capacity of a barge—ie a 750 tonne barge would pay £750 per annum.

  3.  In his oral evidence, Mr Lowe said that not only would a licensing system put barges on the same basis as lorries but it would also avoid the need to enquire of navigational authorities what the toll would be for a proposed new cargo. It should be pointed out that tolls are not published and are at the discretion of each navigational authority. It can take time—too much time—for the navigational authority to respond to a request to say how much a toll would be (it is within my personal experience that a request for a toll level relating to the River Severn made on 11 October did not receive a reply until November 15!). This delay puts barge operators at a severe disadvantage with lorry operators who can respond to customers' enquiries more quickly than can barge operators.

  4.  However, simply charging an annual licence could be detrimental to the increased use of barges because not all barges are used all year round. The use of barges serving the import and export trades is clearly related to the arrival and departure of ships and therefore there can be lulls between usage. Barges used in connection with construction operations can go through periods of intensive use followed by periods of inactivity. In periods of recession, barges can be laid up. In periods of recession, lorries too can be laid up but as they are on private land they do not need to pay a licence fee. The same ought to apply to barges (it is a separate question as to whether they should pay a mooring fee to the owner of the adjacent land).

  5.  Owners of private cars have the option of buying an annual or six monthly licence. I suggest this type of precedent be followed but that barge operators have the option of buying a licence for 12 months, six months and three months. The later category would be useful to barge operators uncertain about the period of employment of their barges. Consultation with the barge industry would be essential as it would be detrimental to the environment if the use of a barge for, say four weeks was put off by the need to purchase a 13 week licence.

November 2000

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