This information-packed event was attended by people from many parts of the country; a Tewkesbury member remembered the Birmingham canals from the time when, as a young man, he worked on barges carrying dates and tomato puree to the HP Sauce factory.

cboa 2 header

The  Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) is a trade organisation which aims to sustain and increase freight carriage on our waterways. Advantages are economies of scale and fuel efficiency, decongested roads, fewer fatalities and injuries and higher energy efficiency, producing less air pollution with lower emissions.

Large loads are taken off the roads: from aggregates down the Severn, grain down the Mersey, coal down the Calder and sludge and biomass along the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

CRT news reports that last June a 270 tonne electricity transformer (weighing as much as 18 doubledecker buses) was delivered to Hull and transported on the River Trent to Staythorpe Power Station. It was loaded onto the Inland Navigator, a specially converted river barge owned and operated by Robert Wynn & Sons, which can carry single piece loads of up to 300 tonnes on the inland waterway network to cities such as Leeds, Nottingham, York and Worcester. If the transformer had not been carried on the river, it would have faced an 85 mile journey by road.

270 tonne section transformerThis photograph shows a 270 tonne section of a transformer taken by road from the River Ribble at Penwortham Bridge to a substation only a mile away.


Humber Barges report that the Freight Transport Association, Canal & River Trust (which now has a water borne freight policy) and CBOA held a conference in Wakefield in November. A Freight Advisory Group set up has recommended that three of the Trust’s north eastern waterways, the Aire & Calder Navigation, the South Yorkshire Navigation and the River Ouse, be designated as Priority Freight Routes.  A steering group has been asked to work with the port industry, shippers, barge operators and planners and take forward the concept of an inland terminal or port in Leeds for handling marine aggregate, waste, general cargoes, and possibly containers. A steering group has been set up to take the project forward.

Leeds City Council proposes to safeguard certain canal wharves on the Aire and Calder navigation for freight use and to earmark waterside land for industrial use. CRT supports Leeds City Council in its efforts to get these wharves protected from unsuitable development, following London’s example.

exol humber princess

Exol Lubricants makes effective use of the waterways and canal networks, regularly transporting 500 tonnes of raw material – equal to more than 20 road tanker deliveries – from Hull docks to its bulk blending plant in Rotherham. It appeared on ITV’s programme Barging Round Britain with John Sergeant who joined the Exol team on the Humber Princess (above, approximately 200 feet long), led by Skipper Duane Ball, and travelled along the river Humber before disembarking at Goole.

urban transport2 header

Centro (West Midlands) is a member of the Urban Transport Group which brings together and promotes the interests of Britain’s largest urban areas on transport. Other full members are Merseytravel (Merseyside), North East Combined Authority, South Yorkshire PTE (Sheffield City Region), Transport for Greater Manchester, Transport for London, West Yorkshire Combined Authority.  Associate members are Bristol and the West of England Partnership, Nottingham City Council and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport.

The Passenger Transport Executive Group’s latest report highlights the essential role of urban freight in ensuring the effective functioning of the UK economy and presents a fresh vision designed to safeguard this role, as well as protect the environment and quality of life for communities. It can be downloaded here.

The emphasis is on freight making its way to urban areas by rail or water, either directly into those areas, or into the major distribution parks that serve them. The report argues that those distribution sites should be located so that it is practical for goods to travel the last mile(s) into urban centres using zero/low emission modes.

Further news from CBOA and CRT, including a proposal for a new canal across the Pennines, floating depots and Belgium’s Blue Line Logistics’ move to using hydrogen fuel, will be posted next week on an environment and innovation site.

Membership of the CBOA is open to companies, organisations and individuals who support its aims. Contact the secretary Keith Astley