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


Memorandum by F A Andrews Esq (IW 02)

FREIGHT BY INLAND WATERWAY

INTRODUCTION

  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".

FRANCE—AN EXAMPLE FOR BRITAIN TO FOLLOW

  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 Lyon.

  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.

FACTORY TO CUSTOMER—ONE VESSEL, ONE JOURNEY

  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 ports.

GETTING IT RIGHT

  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 IV.

  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.

INTERNATIONAL WATERWAY STANDARDS (METRES AND TONNES)

Description
Length
Beam or Width
Draught (Depth)
Air Draught
DWT
Class V
95
11.5
2.7
6.7
2,000
Class IV
80
9.5
2.5
4.4
1,350
Lock Size
(S&SYN)
61
6.1
2.5
3.5
700
Lash Lighter
18.7
9.5
2.6
-
370
Bacat
(Redundant)
16.8
4.6
2.5
-
140

RECOMMENDED DEVELOPMENTS (ALL SUBJECT TO INVESTIGATION)

HUMBERCoastal 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)
THAMESCoastal 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
SEVERNCoastal vessels to Gloucester (4)
Low-profile River/Sea vessels, LASH and Motor Barges as far as Worcester
MERSEYCoastal 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 lost trade.

14 August 2000


 
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