We raised our concerns over the impact the long-term lack of funding has on freight in a letter to Rebecca Pow MP, the minister with responsibility for waterways at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Commercial traffic had returned to the Aire & Calder Navigation last autumn with a weekly run from Hull to Knostrop. This new traffic has the potential to replace 17 lorry journeys for every barge fully loaded with aggregate. Following a breach and the closure of the Aire & Calder late last year, this operation is on hold pending repairs. The Aire & Calder is currently scheduled for re-opening in mid-August. The oil traffic to Rotherham is also suspended and plans for developing the Port of Leeds are in jeopardy.
An aging infrastructure
Canal & River Trust has a statutory duty to make the Aire & Calder Navigation principally available for the carriage of freight. However, they also have to juggle their finite resources. With the breach likely to cost around £3 million to repair, and the likelihood of further issues as a result of extreme weather patterns and climate change, things are not going to get any easier for the Trust and other navigation authorities looking after 200 to 250 year old waterway infrastructure.
Our letter makes the case that additional funding is needed from government so that navigation authorities can maintain and protect this vital network that contributes so much to the economy, health and wellbeing of the country. Transfer of transport from road to water will also benefit the environment, because waterborne transport has greater fuel efficiency. This will contribute to Defra’s Clean Air Strategy, as well as the Government’s Net Zero by 2050 target.
We have also written to the recently elected West Yorkshire Mayor. Money invested in these waterways would facilitate more trade and investment in the region, helping the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.