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Thames Freight at Highest Level in a Decade

• 62% increase in tonnage in 2013, up to 5.3 million tonnes
• Over 250,000 lorry trips saved a year
• Crossrail project drives river traffic growth
• Investment in vessels, barges and wharves for the future
• Future growth: tube extension, Battersea Power Station, Tideway Tunnel

The amount of freight moved on the Thames through the capital has trebled in the last four years, reaching a new decade high in 2013, according to the latest figures released by the Port of London Authority (PLA).

Traffic moved between terminals on the Thames rose by 62% to 5.3 million tonnes, an increase of 2 million tonnes on 2012. The majority of the increase was an extra 1.8 million tonnes of spoil being transported from construction projects, particularly the Crossrail scheme. During its construction, Crossrail will move over 4.5 million tonnes of tunnelling spoil from under London to Wallasea Island, where the RSPB is creating a nature reserve.

PLA’s director of planning and environment James Trimmer said:

“Last year the Thames carried over 265,000 lorry loads of materials. That’s a quarter of a million lorry journeys saved – it’s good for the environment and communities, with less pollution and noise.”

Thames Water has moved more than one million tonnes of materials on the Thames for its Lee Tunnel scheme. Mark Sneesby, who heads the Lee Tunnel project, said:

“Through careful planning and consideration of the tidal cycle, we’ve been able to effectively and efficiently move materials by river, allowing us to significantly reduce the number of lorry movements on local roads.”

The river works for operations of any size. Last year 65,000 tonnes of scrap was shipped on the Thames from Erith to Tilbury, keeping lorries off roads, including the often jammed Dartford Crossing.

The PLA works with river operators, shares its marine expertise, helping developers and contractors understand how to make the most of the river for their projects. Just this month, Battersea Power Station started using the Thames to remove excavated material from the site in barges carrying 1,000-tonne loads every trip.

The next major schemes to look to the river are the Northern Line extension at Battersea and the Thames Tideway Tunnel. River operators are investing to meet the growing demand, with new ships, tugs and barges. In the last eighteen months, Bennett’s Barges, GPS, S Walsh and Thames Shipping have collectively invested more than £15 million in their fleets.

Deputy mayor of London for transport, Isabel Dedring, commented:

“The Mayor has long championed greater use of the river for both passenger and freight travel. With record numbers of passengers now travelling on the river Thames, it is fantastic that freight on the river is also at an all-time high and contributing to a reduction in congestion on our roads.”

The PLA is a member of the River Concordat Steering Group which is working hard to deliver the Mayor’s River Action Plan and increase the number of passenger journeys on the Thames to 12 million a year by 2020. It also works with the Mayor’s office, Transport for London and river operators to make sure that developers of riverside sites think ‘river first’. It is in the process of acquiring two wharves safeguarded for cargo handling to ensure there is scope to use the river more in future.

– ends –

Film: Inland Freight

Click here to view our film about Inland Freight

Notes to editors:

• The PLA oversees navigational safety on 95 miles of the tidal Thames, from Teddington Lock to the North Sea.

• The river is home to the second biggest port in the UK, the busiest inland waterway for freight, passengers and a centre for sporting events.

• Recent river operators’ investments have included:

• Bennett’s Barges – continued fleet investment and planned acquisition of new barges. More information:


• GPS Marine – new barges and tugs including GPS Avenger


• Thames Shipping – acquisition of vessel, Yasam Rose.


• S. Walsh - Investment in new tugs and river barges, including the tug SWS Breda.



• Martin Garside, PLA, 07736 362 385
• Alistair Gale, PLA, 07711 440 736