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Olympics boost for Thames freight

[ May 11, 2012   //   ]

A trial batch of 20 20-ft boxes has been sent up the Thames to the Stratford Olympic site. Thursday 17 May saw the first trial delivery by water in conjunction with The Port of Tilbury and marine logistics experts, Bennett’s Barges. The containers and their contents were loaded on to a Bennett’s barge at Tilbury and a Bennett’s tug then navigated the 350-tonne barge to a location close to the Olympic Park.

The hope is to use the Games as a shop-window for the possibilities of moving freight into London via the river, and one possibility that is being pursued is using the barges and cranes that move containerised waste out of London for other types of freight.

At a Thames public meeting at Canvey island on 10 May, Port of London Authority chief executive Richard Everitt confirmed that some Olympic material had been moved at that the PLA had been pursuing other possibilities in partnership with Cory Environmental. The PLA’s Jim Trimmer also reported that a contractor building a riverside residential development had also recently been told to use the river to transport in material as part of its planning conditions.

Richard Everitt described the recent project to build a new rail station across the Thames at Blackfriars as a turning point, where construction firms and others had realised the potential of the river as a transport artery. The builders found that moving the material for the project, including huge steel girders, would be impractical by road and turned to the river instead. Now other companies were waking up to the potential, he said.

One possible construction scheme that is however causing the PLA concern is the putative ‘Boris Island’ airport in the Thames Estuary. Richard Everitt told the meeting: “As the UK’s biggest port, we couldn’t countenance barrages being put across the river – and we have no idea what this would do to shipping lanes.” Currently, the Thames channels can be maintained with very little dredging, but building a new airport in the estuary could change that. “A lot of work would have to be done before we knew the answer to that question,” Everitt added.

However, he also pointed out that the current Government consultation on runway capacity in south-east England was the 11th such exercise since the 1950s – and none of those had resulted in a single new runway being built.

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