Report: tapping into River Thames’ freight potential has ‘positive net-zero implications’

Figures from the Port of London Authority (PLA) already reveal that the River Thames is the UK’s busiest inland waterway, carrying 60 per cent of all goods lifted on the UK's inland waterway network.

But now a new report commissioned by the Thames Estuary Growth Board, and carried out by professional-services firm WSP UK, has revealed that the River Thames’ true potential for handling light freight has yet to be tapped, and if this is done there could be economic and environmental benefits for both the south-east region and the UK as a whole.

It argues, that at the right scale, light freight, mainly transporting parcels, on the River Thames could be competitive with road freight. Their modelling suggests £3 in net additional economic benefits per parcel, based on a 20-million-parcel-a-year scenario.

It also outlines that maximising light freight will have ‘positive net-zero implications’, and could also support the following:

  • The UK government’s net-zero strategies
  • The creation of new jobs
  • A modal shift, decarbonising the freight network and as a consequence reducing air and noise pollution and congestion on roads
  • Opportunities for innovation and greener transport models, taking advantage of existing and emerging technology in zero-carbon transport, both maritime and road based

In the creation of the report WSP UK sought input from multiple stakeholders including river operators; potential end customers within the retail, parcel and food and beverages sectors, which included car-giant Ford and online-fashion-giant ASOS, and Statutory authorities with vested interest and control over the river, including the PLA and the Greater London Authority.

The study goes onto argue that ‘the simplest way that the Thames can be utilised for light freight is by replacing existing flows that start and finish on, or within close proximity, to the River Thames’.

It suggests that likely destinations will be in central London and identifies potential origin points, including the following: The Port of Tilbury, Dagenham International Ferry Terminal (DIFT), The new wholesale markets site in Barking and A West London pier, e.g. Wandsworth Riverside (which is currently utilised for the DHL trail).

On the report findings, Perry Glading, Thames Estuary Growth Board deputy chair and lead on light freight, said: “This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss, as we continue to strive towards net zero and deliver the world’s cleanest, greenest Estuary."

The report, which also includes a series of recommendations for implementation, will now be shared with business to develop the case for investment and all levels of government to garner policy support.

Share this article

Become a Chartered member

Becoming chartered with us demonstrates that you are a leader in the water and environment profession. Showcase your experience and skills to the sector with this gold standard qualification, which will set you above your peers.

Find out more

Watch our membership webinars

Want tips and advice about becoming a CIWEM member?
Our free membership webinars are a great resource to ensure you have all the information you need for a successful membership application, and they contribute to your CPD.

Watch our membership webinars