Thames could be used to solve transport problems

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The Independent Online
LONDON'S most underused transport resource, the river Thames, will be examined by a working party set up yesterday by the Government to assess whether it can be used more effectively.

The working group, which will have representatives from the Port of London Authority, London Transport and the London Planning Advisory Committee, will look at the current use of the Thames and try to establish its potential use for more transport, both freight and passenger.

George Nicholson, chairman of the London Rivers Association, said that there was enormous scope for increasing transport use of the Thames but the current complicated administrative arrangements meant that the control of the river was fragmented between 17 local authorities, the PLA, the National Rivers Authority and the London Docklands Development Committee. 'You need to look at the administration of the Thames before considering how the river can help provide long-term answers to the city's transport problems.'

He said that initially the main potential was for low cost bulk aggregates where speed was not so essential. The river, for example, was used extensively during the construction of Canary Wharf. However, he said that extending passenger use was difficult because of the need for subsidies 'which under current government policies were unlikely to be forthcoming'. This did not deter the launch of a new river taxi service yesterday.

White Horse Ferries, the operators of the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry, said they want to run a kind of Thames taxi service with 12-seater boats. The first craft, Ebenezer Scrooge, was launched yesterday at Tower Pier and the company hopes to have 26 on the river, operating a 5 to 7.5 minute service by late 1994. The boats are V shaped to allow them to dock at piers without the need for mooring ropes.

The service will run between Wandsworth and Gravesend and will only stop when hailed from a pier or on request from a passenger. Fares will be comparable with those currently charged by the Riverbus, about pounds 2.80 for a journey between Docklands and Charing Cross. The company also hopes to introduce eight 120-seat fast ferries for peak-time demand.

Although the Riverbus loses money, Peter Lay, joint-chief executive of White Horse Ferries, said: 'By having small craft which serve a large number of locations we will be able to make a profit.'

(Photograph omitted)