Return of barge traffic to the Aire & Calder Navigation is “very opportune”

A 500 tonnes capacity barge en route from Hull to Leeds with sea- dredged aggregates, passing through Whitley Lock, near Knottingley

The Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) has said that the restarting of barge traffic between Hull to Leeds is “very opportune” as the country faces a HGV driver shortage and looks to decarbonise the country’s industries.

The traffic restarted this month after a section of canal wall on the Aire and Calder Navigation gave way following heavy rainfall. The repairs which took nine months to complete at a cost of £3m mean that 500 tonnes capacity barges are now regularly arriving at Knostrop Wharf, east Leeds and bringing with them marine dredged aggregates from Hull.

David Lowe, chairman of CBOA said that this shows “the value of using barges” noting that the crew of a barge can move the cargo more quickly than if they each drove a HGV between the two cities.

He added the barge use also fits in with the de-carbonisation agenda, noting that research shows that barges have and continue to create up to 75% less emissions than heavy lorries, a number set to further increase as the industry moves towards biofuels.

Lowe continued “I call upon the Government, in the year it hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this autumn in Glasgow, to increase infrastructure investment in improving the nation’s waterways”, said Mr Lowe.

Andy Collins of AC Marine Aggregates, the company whose aggregates have been brought to Leeds via the , said: “The re-opening of the canal, thanks in large to the work completed by the Canal & River Trust, has enabled us to kick start the marine aggregates business back up in Leeds, which, if the news on the effects of global warming in the last nine months has taught us anything, is a win-win for both our customers and the environment. A prime example of how delivery by barge is beneficial for everyone is our existing project supplying Amazon’s new distribution centre being built in Leeds; by using Knostrop wharf we can massively reduce both CO2 emissions and vehicle movements.”

Highlighting the environmental benefits it was noted that the use of marine dredged aggregates from the North Sea is a sustainable activity as nature replenishes the deposits at sea unlike land based supplies, and that each barge actually removes the equivalent of 18 articulated lorries from the M62

The current area being used at Knostrop is about one-tenth of an acre and is seen as a temporary phase. The Canal & River Trust’s wider ambitions are to see the development of a 10 acre site at Stourton on the outskirts of east Leeds as a wharf to handle at least 200,000 tonnes per annum of cargo.

Planning permission for the wharf has been obtained and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has offered £3.17m towards the costs. The full business case is now being developed which, if approved, would enable construction in 2022.

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