The joke that is freight on the waterways

Published: Friday, 28 May 2010

THE claim of using its canals for freight by British Waterways is proving to be a joke, as it prefers lorries even when facilities are available.

As readers of narrowboatworld well know a ramp has been constructed at Weston Lock on the Trent & Mersey Canal, with an empty Barge just two locks away, but no effort was made to use the barge for the spoil or materials, lorries being preferred.

It is even worse on the Regents Canal, where another ramp is being rebuilt by British Waterways, and barges have actually been supplied by Wood, Hall and Heward, but once again all the equipment and materials have been transported by road. A barge can be seen containing a woman's toilet in Del  Brenner's photograph.

But it gets worse, for to get the lorries to the site,  BW have persuaded Islington Council to completely close off a road for them for a few weeks. Cyclists, who were also blocked, just used the pavement until the local pedestrians complained and the fencing was adjusted to provide a narrow cycle lane.

Forgotten it's a navigation authority

Del Brenner of Regents Network and a member of the London Waterways Commission, when he saw that BW was  not using the canal for carrying out construction work on the canalside access ramp, asked if it had now completely forgotten that it is a navigation authority, remarking:

"But any rubble so far excavated has not been dropped into a barge on the canal, but into skips on Danbury Street in the otherwise almost empty BW compound that blocks up the busy local road.

"There is piling equipment and a few lengths of steel on the road, but nothing that could not be put on to a barge. Of course, all the equipment and materials could have been brought to the site by canal, and that would have also saved a few large HGVs on Islington's roads. It is daft that the navigation authority does not make use of the canal, and British Waterways is no good these days."

This follows on the other London British Waterways contretemps of the millions of pounds spent on a lock by the Olympic site which has been virtually ignored by contractors, using hundreds of lorries instead.