Using Britain’s canal system to move significant amounts of cargo could be a viable green alternative to lorries in many areas, according to those behind a new commercial barge link between the Humber and Leeds.
When the 50-year-old barge Farndale H moored at the Knostrop Depot, in Leeds, in September, it was the first commercial cargo moved into the city by barge in 20 years.
Now the service has been so successful, a second barge – Fusedale H – has also begun shipping aggregate for the building industry into the city.
Maik Brown, of the Commercial Boat Operators Association, said it is hoped the tonnage will significantly increase in the near future – especially with plans at an advanced stage for a new inland port at Stourton, in Leeds.
Mr Brown said: “This is a massive positive.
“One 500 tonne barge will take the equivalent of 18 to 22 lorries off the road.
“So that itself has got to be good. It reduces the carbon footprint.”
He said: “I think there’s potential around the UK for other areas.
“There’s a lot of interest around the UK in general where businesses are thinking that, maybe, they could change their logistics and take a bit by barge.”
The Hull-to-Leeds contract started mid-September when Farndale H, which is owned by Branford Barge Owners, of Goole, loaded the first cargo of grit sand for customer AC Aggregates at Hull’s Albert Dock.
The sand is dredged from an area of the North Sea just off East Anglia and is brought into Hull by the super suction dredger Scelveringhe, Mr Brown said.
The aggregates are then moved by Farndale H and now Fusedale H – which is owned by the firm Humber Barges – initially along The Humber and River Ouse to Goole Docks, before travelling from Goole to Leeds via the Aire and Calder Navigation.
Both vessels currently being used in the operation are converted oil tanker barges, built in Knottingley in the 1960s to bring fuel into Leeds.
Each can carry 500 tonnes but are currently only loaded to around 350 tonnes until planned work is completed to dredge a shallower section of the Aire and Calder Navigation, Mr Brown said.
He said many canal users off and on the water are surprised by how big the barges are and the size of their cargo.
But he said: “The reaction has been very, very positive from the leisure users. Most people want to see it back.”