Delivery company DHL’s yellow and red river boats are familiar in Venice and Amsterdam. Now they’re on the Thames too – the UK’s first high speed river-based parcel delivery service, running daily from Wandsworth into Central London.
The new service, seeing Thames Clippers Logistics boats loaded daily from electric vehicles at Wandsworth Riverside Quarter Pier, docking at Bankside Pier opposite St Paul’s Cathedral for “final mile” delivery on DHL courier bicycles, has been welcomed all round by proponents of trade on the river.
It’s a “great example of how the Thames can play its part in an innovative new way,” Sadiq Khan’s transport deputy Heidi Alexander told On London, while Port of London authority chief executive Robin Mortimer described it as a “significant step forward in opening up a new and potentially substantial area of river use.”
Tidal for 95 miles, from Teddington Lock to the North Sea, the Thames, overseen since 1912 by the Port of London Authority (PLA) public trust, remains the UK’s busiest inland waterway for freight, moving some five million tonnes of materials each year.
What Mayor Khan’s planning deputy Jules Pipe has called “this uncongested marine superhighway” nevertheless remains underused, despite a fistful of strategies aimed at unlocking its potential, from the PLA’s Vision for the Tidal Thames to City Hall’s London Plan and TfL’s Freight and Servicing Action Plan.
But the new DHL service is just one sign that the often-heralded resurgence of river trade could actually be happening.
A key piece of the Thames trade jigsaw fell into place just before the DHL service launched, with the government confirming the “safeguarding” of 50 wharves along the river, adopting in full recommendations from City Hall following a review last year.
Safeguarding, first introduced in 1997, effectively puts the future of river wharves in the hands of the Mayor, giving City Hall the power to refuse redevelopment proposals for wharves on the safeguarded list which are viable or “capable of being made viable” for water-borne freight handling, as set out in the current London Plan.
The policy has been a key weapon in preserving vital riverside infrastructure from the pressure of waterfront development, as demonstrated by the protracted legal battle to prevent the loss of Peruvian Wharf in the Royal Docks, which concluded last year with the PLA completing a £3 million purchase of the site . . . . .
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