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Thames set for a bright future

Port of London Authority (PLA) chairman, Christopher Rodrigues CBE has heralded a bright future for the Thames, identifying strong prospects for growth and a new skills academy to facilitate the training of people to work on the river.

Addressing over 250 Thames stakeholders onboard the passenger boat, Silver Sturgeon, including shipping minister Robert Goodwill MP, PLA chairman Rodrigues marked a strong year of growing river use, with port trade exceeding 45 million tonnes and over 10 million passenger trips on the Thames. He said activity on the river is expected to grow strongly over the next 20 years, with the Thames Vision project identifying six goals for growth:

  • the biggest ever Port of London;
  • 20 million passengers on the river;
  • more freight moved on the Thames;
  • greater participation in sport; combined with
  • an improved environment; and
  • more people enjoying the river than ever before.

“The Vision is a perfect device for gathering together all river users – large and small – behind a program that ensures the development of a vibrant, safe, commercially successful river not just in the next year or two, but for 20 years ahead,” Rodrigues said. “Perhaps as importantly, the launch of the Vision is starting to change what people say about the Thames. It is the beating heart of our city and a great future beckons for all its future stakeholders.

“The Vision represents a major project for the PLA, but it cannot be delivered by the PLA alone. If ever there was a “we” project, this is it. There is unanimous support for pushing ahead and for the PLA to play a leading role in driving the vision forward. We are grasping the baton you have given us and asserted that we are the Custodians of the Tidal Thames.

“There’s still a lot of work to do. We’ll start with the low hanging fruit this year and work with interested parties to develop implementation plans for the strategic projects and to confront the trade offs those projects will require. It is an exciting time for the Thames and no better time to work on the river.”

Well-trained, skilled people are vital to making the most of the new opportunities highlighted in the Thames Vision. The recently created Thames Skills Academy (TSA), a new initiative by the PLA, Transport for London, Tideway (who are building the Thames Tideway Tunnel) and the Company of Watermen & Lightermen, will be established as a Group Training Association - a learning and skills partnership where employers subscribe to sector-specific off-the-job training in order to provide efficient, expertly-delivered skills that meet the River’s needs.

Christopher Rodrigues said:

“The generous support of Tideway has been the catalyst enabling the organisation to be set-up. For young people coming to the river at the start of their working lives, and indeed for experienced workers as they up-skill, the TSA will be a critical resource. It will make sure river workers are equipped to contribute directly and indirectly to the Tideway project, the biggest single development project on the Thames in over a century.

“Beyond that, in five or six years’ time, when Tideway has finished its work and the Thames is much cleaner, there will be a pool of skilled labour ready to move on to the next major project making use of the Thames.”

The TSA will build on the work done by the Thames Training Alliance (TTA), whose latest group of apprentices will formally complete their training in the coming weeks. The TTA is ceasing operations on completion of this group’s training.

The latest consultation on the Thames Vision closed in mid-February and drew over 120 responses. The responses will be published on the PLA website next week and the outline plan for delivery of the Vision will be published in the next couple of months.

To read a full transcript of Christopher Rodrigues’ speech, use this link: www.pla.co.uk/About-Us/Who-we-are/Custodians-of-the-Tidal-Thames

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About the PLA

  • The PLA is a self-financing organisation, set-up by an Act of Parliament in 1909 to run the tidal River Thames in trust for future generations. Its 350-strong workforce oversees safe navigation, protects the marine environment and promotes the use of the river. The PLA has no shareholders and any financial surpluses are reinvested in stewardship of the river and improving the efficiency of PLA operations.
  • The PLA oversees navigational safety and river operations on 95 miles of the tidal Thames from Teddington Lock, through the capital, and out to the sea.
  • More information on the Thames Vision project can be found at: www.pla.co.uk/ThamesVision

About the Thames Vision

  • The Thames Vision is a 20 year plan for the river’s future. The project is currently in a consultation phase to clarify the collective ambitions of stakeholders.
  • Evidence feeding into the Thames Vision includes an economic report, amenity report, trade forecast and capacity study.
  • A number of opportunities to participate have taken place as starting with a six-week call for evidence, before moving into a series of public and sector specific meetings on people’s aspirations for the river. A consultation on the draft Thames Vision Goals and Priority Actions for the next 20 years is underway. For more information please visit: http://pla.co.uk/about-us/the-thames-vision.