28 May 2021

Plans for freight traffic on the waterways of the North East are at risk, due to ongoing delays in dredging and repairs to a breach on the Aire & Calder Navigation.

Commercial traffic returned to the Aire & Calder last autumn with a weekly run from Hull to Knostrop. This had the potential to replace 17 lorry journeys for every barge fully load with aggregate. Following a breach and the closure of the canal in December, this traffic is now in serious jeopardy.

The proposed mid-August date for reopening the waterway means that the canal will have been closed for eight months. The closure is also affecting the oil traffic to Rotherham and plans for the development of the Port of Leeds. Dredging is also needed to allow these barges carry at full capacity, which enables them to operate economically.

Statutory duty for Freight

Canal & River Trust has a statutory duty to make the Aire & Calder Navigation available for the carriage of freight, but at the same time has to juggle its finite resources. Working to get more freight onto the waterways is an important way in which the waterways can contribute to the Government’s zero carbon agenda.

As well as asking Canal & River Trust for assurances that everything possible is being done to allow this waterway to reopen as soon as possible, we are calling on Government to make more money available for essential works such as dredging.

Canal & River Trust estimates that the breach will cost around £3 million to repair. This is just one of several major breaches and culvert collapses over recent years. With the recent 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.

We will continue to lobby government for sufficient funding, so that navigation authorities can maintain and protect this vital network that contributes so much to the economy, health and wellbeing of the country.