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River Thames should play more central role in London's transport strategy
28 July 2020
On 16 July, London First organised a virtual roundtable session co-hosted by the Port of London Authority and the Port of Tilbury to look at how the Thames can become a more integral part of London’s transport strategy.
Joined by representatives from Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority (GLA), it was agreed that the Thames was underutilised in its current capacity and should be seen as a critical piece of infrastructure that could provide a safer, cleaner, quicker and more enjoyable means of transporting people and goods.
In our roundtable discussion, we had three presentations examining three different aspects of the river we wanted our members to discuss and provide insight: freight; riverside development; and passenger services. The key points to emerge from each session were:
Transporting freight via the river can provide huge carbon emission savings and help free up the capital’s congested road network.
The river has the potential to provide for a much more diversified mix of freight goods, accommodating not just waste and construction materials but also e‑commerce, food & drinks, and reverse logistics.
Following the construction of Tilbury2, additional port and freight capacity will be required in the near future, and it is essential that land is allocated appropriately to accommodate for this.
There does not need to be a tension between protecting industrial riverside sites and residential development. Effective design and engagement can ensure that these two types of development can accommodate each other.
Freight movement would not happen on the river without wharves, and it is critical that these wharves are protected to ensure that freight can continue to be moved via the river.
People choose to live next to the river and like a vibrant riverfront.
Wharves are needed to handle goods coming on and off ships, often freight, and the protection of wharves are critical to creating a more resilient UK supply chain.
Passengers are steadily returning since the lockdown ended, offering people a socially distanced alternative to other forms of public transport. This form of travel is proving attractive to existing customers and to those who have previously never travelled using the river.
Many other cities, such as New York and Hamburg, have river services supported by state subsidies which is not the case in London where river services are totally reliant on private funding.
Raising additional funding for piers is critical to opening up more areas of the river for passenger services.
Participants agreed that a culture change was required if the full benefits of the river were ever going to be realised and working with members, London First remains focused on highlighting how the river should remain an essential component of London’s transport strategy.
To keep the pressure on decision-makers, we will make this roundtable discussion an annual event, working with key stakeholders like TfL and the GLA to ensure that the river continues to provide for a more sustainable future.
Rob Mortimer of Port of London Authority wrote about the arrival of the HMM Algeciras on our shores and the green economic potential of the Thames here.
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