Locks to the River Thames

Whether you're joining our waterways or leaving for the Thames, there's important things you need to know. The tidal locks to the Thames are Thames Lock Brentford, Limehouse, Bow and West India Dock Entrance.

Map showing locations of Thames locks Map showing locations of Thames locks

Boating on the Thames

Boating on the tidal Thames presents a unique set of challenges. For instance, it's not uncommon for the passage between Teddington and Limehouse to have waves over a metre tall with tidal flows in excess of four knots. But for the experienced boater it's well worth a go.

The River Thames flows down stream towards our Docklands office.

But the tide is more powerful - it'll be either pushing water back up towards Teddington. Or puling it back towards the Docklands. If you're travelling on the Thames, you need to travel with the tide. 

High tide (or high water) is the point at which the tide's direction switches. You'll want to be at your destination by then.

Boats travelling from Teddington to Brentford:
The usual advice is to lock into Teddington about 45 minutes after high water at London Bridge (about 45 minutes to Brentford)

Boats travelling from Brentford to Teddington:
The usual advice is to lock into Brentford about 60 to 90 minutes before high water at London Bridge (about 45 minutes to Brentford)

Boats travelling from Brentford to Limehouse:
The usual advice is to lock into Brentford about one hour after high water at London Bridge

Boats travelling from Limehouse to Brentford:
At this point ask yourself 'what time are you leaving Limehouse?'. Your arrival in Brentford will be about two and a half hours after that

When to use the tidal locks

So, using the tidal locks therefore depends on the tide. However, you can only use the tidal locks at Thames Lock Brentford, Limehouse, Bow and West India Dock Entrance when our team or volunteers are on site. 

When requesting a lock booking you may need to leave a message on an answering machine. We'll respond within two working days to confirm or amend the lock booking. Please explain:

  • The date and time of your call
  • Your name and telephone number
  • Your boat’s name and index number
  • The lock you’re intending to book
  • The date and time you’d like to book
  • Your direction of travel ie. up from the Thames, down to the Thames

You can view lock closures on the stoppage pages of our website.

The Port of London

The Port of London (PLA) expects most vessels and especially those of 13.7m or more in length overall, to have an operational VHF radio on board.

The PLA has information and a very useful guidance document on this. 

  • Teddington Lock can be contacted on 020 8940 8723
  • Richmond Lock on 020 8940 0634
  • Port of London Authority on 01474 562 200

Thames Lock Brentford

The 2019 Thames tide timetable sets out availability of the lock. 

You must book the lock at least 48 hours in advance by either calling 0303 040 4040 or emailing our customer service team stating that you wish to book passage through Brentford Lock in the message box.

Please note: our team works 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Thursday (and 9:00am to 4:30pm on a Friday, with last bookings taken at 3:00pm on a Friday).

Limehouse Lock

Limehouse Lock is not available for around two hours either side of low water at London Bridge.

In the summer (1 April to 30 September): the lock is open between 8.00am to 6.00pm. It's also possible to use the lock from 5.00am and to 10.00pm if it is booked 24 hours in advance.

In the winter (1 October to 31 March): the lock is open between 8.00am to 4.00pm. It's also possible to use the lock from 5.00am and to 10.00pm if it is booked 24 hours in advance.

To book the lock, call 020 7308 9930.

Bow Lock

Bow Lock must be booked 7 days in advance. Availability is restricted to two hours either side of high water at London Bridge between 9.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

To book the lock, call 0303 040 4040 or email our customer services team

West India Dock Entrance

West India Lock must be booked in advance. Availability is restricted to three hours either side of high water at North Woolwich. We can guarantee a lock booking between 9.30a.m to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. For any operations outside these hours, please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Please note that you will need to have full salvage cover/wreck removal insurance to enter West India Dock.

To book the lock, please call our Customer Services team on 0303 0404040 and ask for West India Marine Control.

Boating on our waterways

We need two working days as tide heights, water levels and fluvial flows can affect the lock and lock movements. (A normal working day is Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm, not including bank and public holidays.) It's possible to book a slot outside these normal passage times and we'll try to help you through, but we can't guarantee any movements outside of the published times.

If you've not been on our waterways before, you'll need to buy the appropriate licence first

You will need a valid boat safety certificate and current insurance cover.

Maximum craft dimensions for our London canals are: length 21.95m (72’), beam 3.96m (13’), air draft 2.13m (7’).

In an emergency, call 0800 47 999 47.

Tide times

Tide times are available from the PLA website.

Last date edited: 13 September 2019