Friday, 1 April 2011

Canal transport.

In a recent post, I cogitated in the final paragraph about commercial boat traffic returning to the canals.

Now this starts with me asking myself the rhetorical question "If the road and rail freight costs continue to rise. Is there a chance that some part of the canals could ever come back into play as a cheap form of bulk freight movement again?" 

Lo and behold,  Peter and Margaret of Nb Kelly Louise commented. 

Hello Mike, canal transport is already back! Tesco are up and running, shipping wine from Liverpool Sea port to their Manchester bottling plant. They use the virtually unused Manchester Ship Canal to remove 50 lorry journeys a week from the M62. Peel holdings also have an ambitious plan to build a new container terminal at Trafford Park, Manchester, also to increase container shipping from Liverpool to Manchester, then trans-shipped to road vehicles from there. From small beginnings, who knows?

I vaguely remember reading something about Tesco and canals in one of the canal genre magazines a while back.  In my usual absent minded way, I quickly omitted to put this on my list of topics for use in the blog. My memory is very good. I can bump into someone I have not seen for years and years and without a problem I can remember their names. The curious thing is that I am very poor at remembering to remember the things I need to do.  But I digress, now where was I?

Peter and Margaret ofNb Kelly Louise also commented.

Then the question would be, would you want commercial traffic back on the canals with all our leisure boats? Because the modern version of commercial canal traffic would be nothing like the rose tinted versions we all hold in our minds.

Well this started me off cogitating again, this may explain why I need to wear glasses.  I can see some possible pitfalls and at the same time some significant benefits from bringing back commercial canal traffic.

  • My guess is that canal would be better maintained over a given route and there would be some additional drivers for BW to get off their backsides and dredge.
  • BW the charity by another name would also have some additional and welcome income. 
  • I would imagine that the levels of traffic would still be very low when compared to the number of leisure boats.
  • What actual impact would it have, well I suppose there would be an expectation of commercial boat operators to do a bit of queue jumping at locks.

"Up't Norf", where men are men and sheep tremble. We still see the Humber Princess from time to time carrying oil to Rotherham. It's one of the finest sphincter tightening experience's that a boater can have. Yes, its good to see the Princess bearing down on you on a tight bend. The surf ride over her wake can be very interesting!

As for a rose tinted perspective on the past. I have touched on this subject before. About a year ago I wrote a piece about "middle class twee" and whether modern canal boats are actually maintaining or mimicking tradition. Should we modern  narrow-boaters owners ape the old traditions like, castles and roses?

You don't see much in the way of traditional narrow-boat  painting on GRP craft after all. The old narrow-boats were built to be functional. The accommodation was basic and the lifestyle was cramped to say the least. Today, leisure narrow-boats are floating gin palaces by comparison and are built to fulfil a totally different function. No one would buy for their everyday transport a model T Ford. Enthusiasts however will maintain original classic model T's, much as happens today with old craft on the canals. Should this new leisure function on the rivers, canals and broads (which has become an ever growing industry in its own right) have a unique style of its own.


1 comment:

  1. On your first note it was a nice sight to see the materials being used for the Lincoln to Torksey cycle track being transported by water. The old wharf near Saxilby is once again home to a small fleet of commercial craft (Ok there is one tug, one crane boat and a couple of hoppers).

    It is always nice to see commercial craft earning their keep. Long may it continue.


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