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The time is right to increase freight by water

Inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe should be considered as an alternative to road and rail freight, an international conference held in Leeds earlier this month has recommended.

Tug pulling barge with large freight on River Trent

Freight by Water 2018, hosted by Canal & River Trust and the Freight Transport Association (FTA), and funded by an EU Interreg North Sea Region grant, as part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions.

The ‘unsung hero' of transportation network modes, inland waterways across the world have proven to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials. The conference highlighted several success stories and also discussed several opportunities for freight by water.

Among the potential projects is the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads.

Steve Higham, service and outcomes development manager at Trust, said: "With, increasing pressure on our road and rail network, navigations such as the Aire & Calder from Leeds to Goole present fantastic opportunities for cutting the costs and environmental impact of transporting goods.

"This is why we have developed proposals for an inland port in Leeds, with funding and support from West Yorkshire Combined Authority. We believe this facility would pave the way for further development of the inland waterway freight sector across the UK and internationally."

Alex Veitch, FTA lead on water freight and coordinator of Freight by Water, added: "There's never been a better time for businesses to explore waterways as a means of freight transport. Waterways provide businesses with the perfect opportunity to reduce costs and environmental impact and should be an integral part of any effective multi-modal logistics strategy. However, further investment in infrastructure is desperately needed for it to reach its full potential."

Using funding secured from the EU Interreg North Sea Region programme, Canal & River Trust is undertaking engineering studies at Bullholme Lock on the Aire & Calder Navigation this winter to assess the possibilities of increasing their size to accommodate Euro Class II container barges. A planning application will soon be submitted for the Stourton port site and a decision is expected early next year.

Last Edited: 29 October 2018

photo of a location on the canals
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