Category Archives: Transport
Welcome news on ESO’s website
The European Skippers Organisation (ESO) was set up to make the voices of the European Barge Union (EBU) and independent inland waterway transport (IWT) entrepreneurs clearly heard by the European Commission. Over the years, the organisation has occupied itself with various matters, including market regulation, fleet renewal, market observation, waterway bottlenecks, inland shipping promotion, crew regulation, training, accommodation, environmental problems and River Information Services.
2019: Brussels sees IWT as a serious and sustainable alternative
ESO reports that in December, the European Commission presented its climate plans for the next decades. To reach the climate goals and reduce greenhouse gases the EC wants to give inland shipping a bigger role in transport in the EU, conveying more cargo, improving existing infrastructure and building new waterways. Never before has such a policy been made in favour of inland shipping which will move forward and do the utmost to fulfil the challenges ahead, for the benefit of people, planet and prosperity.
UK at Forefront of Transport Innovation (not)
Surprisingly there was no reference to the potential of water freight in a major report (UK at the Forefront of Transport Innovation) on how the UK can capitalise on opportunities offered by transport technologies and innovation to benefit the economy, society and the citizen. It was published on 31st January 2019 by the Government Office for Science.
Waterborne Technology Platform, the European research and innovation platform for waterborne industries published their January 2019 report presenting vision, strategy, time-path and expected benefits of targeted research into inland waterway transport and ports.
The EU’s Green Transport Deal
A Euractive Green Deal article reports that in October, climate chief Frans Timmermans told the European Parliament that he wants to establish ‘green ports’ around Europe, which offer clean refuelling infrastructure and reduced costs for less-polluting ships.
Boats, barges and ships will form a vital part of the new mobility plan in the EC proposal to shift a “substantial” part of the 75% of freight carried by road to inland waterways and rail.
After a climate-friendly Flybe decision, will government respond to Tory challenge on the scandalous North-South funding imbalance?
Due to WordPress malfunction I cannot upload images to this site. They are included in the email alert
The Financial Times casts doubt on the prime minister’s commitment to the regions in two articles today
As Jim Pickard reports, in Flybe collapse puts commitment to regions in doubt, some MPs are voicing concerned about the impact of the bankruptcy on their constituencies. He points out that Boris Johnson’s administration had repeatedly vowed to improve “regional connectivity” and sees the Flybe decision as a failure to uphold this commitment.
The economic case was put by Kelly Tolhurst, the aviation minister: “Unfortunately, in a competitive market, companies do fail, and it is not the role of government to prop them up”.
Snapshot FT reader’s comment: decision is climate friendly
Tory think-tank Onward has found “dramatic” differences in spending to the advantage of London in recent years
In another article, Pickard reports that – in his election manifesto last year – Mr Johnson promised to ramp up the Housing Infrastructure Fund from its current £5.5bn to £10bn to support the delivery of new homes in local authorities “across every English region”
Housing Infrastructure Fund graphic
He refers to a report called “The Challenge”, by the Tory think-tank Onward (May 2019) which has found “dramatic” differences in spending to the advantage of London in recent years.
It argued that government spending has for years been skewed towards the most prosperous parts of the country, in part because of the Treasury’s “Green Book” — which sets spending criteria.
The differences in spending included:
- capital spending on transport in London at £6,600 per head between 2008 and 2019, compared with the English average of £2,400,
- research funding for universities — was nearly twice the UK average in London, at £3,900 per head versus £2,300 per head from 2001 to 2017 and
- London received 47% of Arts Council England spending and central government funding of arts institutions over the same period.
Pickard’s conclusion that such evidence raises questions about the depth of the prime minister’s commitment to the regions is qualified by his FT colleague, Camilla Cavendish: “Boris Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ agenda depends on devolving power”
“There are an estimated 11,000 deaths per year at the moment, but this will rise as the population continues to age”. (The British Heart Foundation (BHF)
Summarising an Environmental Law paragraph:
- Transport is the biggest source of air pollution in the UK.
- In town centres and alongside busy roads, motor vehicles are responsible for most local pollution.
- Surface transport is responsible for around a quarter of UK emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a major contributor to climate change.
- Many areas still fail to meet national air quality objectives and European limit values for some pollutants – particularly particles and nitrogen dioxide.
As the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK has climbed to 59,000 and 64% of transport and storage businesses now face severe skills shortages, (according to a recent report by the Freight Transport Association) it is a good time to consider a shift from HGV to barge.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF), has warned that more than 160,000 people could die over the next decade from strokes and heart attacks caused by air pollution. Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, which compiled the figures, said: “Every day, millions of us across the country are inhaling toxic particles which enter our blood and get stuck in our organs, raising our risk of heart attacks and stroke”.
Bellona Europe (header below) comments that inland waterway transport has greater potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than road or rail, when discussing ways to make the mobility sector more clean and carbon-neutral.
“With air pollution contributing to around 40,000 deaths a year and four in 10 children at school in high-pollution communities, it’s clear that tackling air pollution needs to be everyone’s urgent business.”
Labour guarantee: a guard on every train will attend to passengers and help the frail or disabled to board safely
If a Labour government is elected, years of struggle against the privatised railways’ attempts to remove guards and have driver only operated (DOO) trains will come to an end.
It is alleged that government has made the removal of guards a condition of private operators’ franchises and has also included a clause in them stating that taxpayers will underwrite any losses the operators incur by provoking strike action.
In 2016, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg derided this cause as making a ‘fuss’ and described the protesting unions as indulging in a power play; She explained the motivation for removing the guards: “One former senior minister tells me that “successive secretaries of state” in charge at Transport have wanted to “get rid of guards on trains”. The ambition is to bring down the cost of rail travel for the tax payer and the train passenger”. She forgot to mention
- the companies’ desire to avoid paying for these guards, swelling profits and payments to shareholders,
- incidents where guards have been needed to cope with disruptive passengers; as an RMT report said: “Only a fool would suggest that drivers can drive a train while sorting out drunken and/or antisocial behaviour in the carriages behind them”
- or ‘lifechanging’ incidents such as this: ITV reported that at West Wickham station south London, in April 2015, a passenger was dragged along the platform at West Wickham station, south London, when the 11am Southeastern service from London Cannon Street to Hayes (Kent) – driver-only operated – while her backpack strap was trapped in the doors of the train. As the train moved off, she fell onto the platform and then through the gap between the platform and train, suffering life-changing injuries.
As RAIL concludes: there remain (even in the eyes of the most ardent DOO supporters) security risks for the train’s passengers without another member of staff present, be they called guards, conductors or train managers.
A list of incidents given in a 2016 government dossier ended: When there is an emergency the guard can take charge especially if the train driver is incapacitated”. But this link, cited in 2017, no longer leads to the dossier.
Racheal Maskell, Labour’s Shadow Rail Minister, said:
“The railway should liberate people and enable everyone to play their full role in our society and economy, but the Conservative Party’s expansion of DOO has knowingly degraded the rights of older and disabled passengers in the face of protests from passenger and disabled people’s groups. It is remarkable that the Government and private train companies have pursued this discriminatory policy even when it provoked fierce industrial disputes resulting in significant strike action.
“Labour’s publicly owned railway will be for everyone, not just the able-bodied, which is why we will enable staff to deliver a safe and accessible railway for all.”
Earlier this month, West Midlands Trains workers staged a weekend stoppage in their continuing campaign against the removal of safety critical guards from trains. An RMT spokesman said:
“The safety and accessibility of the travelling public is this trade union’s priority and should take priority over the profits of the train operator and we believe that this is an important election issue for the people of the West Midlands. “We will not allow the drive for profit to override the core issue of safe and accessible services for all on West Midlands Trains and we stand fi rm on that very basic principle. We will never compromise on the issues of passenger safety and accessibility.”
The union remains available for talks with West Midlands Trains, which is a subsidiary of Dutch state-owned rail operator Abellio.
Will common humanity prevail: the record indicated that it will not unless a Labour government is elected.
2015: The appalling risks which can arise on a DOO train were outlined convincingly here: http://www.railmagazine.com/trains/current-trains/the-pros-and-cons-of-driver-only-operation/page/2
And many issues of Private Eye over the last four years have covered the issue and several DOO related accidents in detail .
Over the past few years we’ve seen a trend in which the Labour Party has become Greener and the Green Party has become “Leftier”. I fervently wish for further rapprochement.
While feeling despair at the head-in-sand attitudes and empty rhetoric in much of Westminster, Whitehall and the City – especially the City – I was enthralled by a presentation given in my constituency of Stroud last month by Alan Simpson, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s advisor on climate change and sustainable economics. If anyone is unfamiliar with his policy ideas, I urge them to look him up and read these essays.
A future Labour government will do its utmost to adopt Simpson’s plans, which include:
- local renewal energy cooperatives,
- an agricultural policy reset to penalise high greenhouse gas emissions,
- a far more locally-based economy (community wealth building – thriving in many locations and now to be adopted in Stroud),
- a far more integrated, publicly-owned transport system…
- and of course real measures to curb tax “avoidance” by the heavyweight national and global corporations, and tackle our hideous income inequality.
- First and foremost though – greenhouse emissions must be HALVED every ten years.
We should all be taking notice of the wonderful Greta Thunberg’s message
Real change can’t come too soon, and the only way we’re ever going to see real change in the UK is to put a Labour/Green government? into power at the earliest possible opportunity.
I can’t see how diluting the non-Conservative vote at the next general election is going to achieve anything except more Tory-led acceleration to destruction.
I realise some will find their tribal loyalties tested – but the nightmare we’ve created transcends such petty concerns.
Media 104: The fight-back? Seriously flawed FT article on the next 30 years of fossil fuelled energy
The message from the article’s author, Nick Butler: “Loved or not, the energy companies will still be giving us products we need and they will thrive over the next three decades . . . Wind and solar power are of limited value in meeting industrial energy requirements”.
He stresses the continuing weighting of investment in favour of oil and gas against renewables and focuses on the latest long-term international outlook, which “paints a picture of the world to 2050, on the basis of current policy, reasonable expectations of economic and population growth across the world”.
Sounds good: but this report “comes from the US Energy Information Administration — an independent agency in September”. However, according to its hyperlink and Investopedia, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a government agency formed in 1977.
In addition to this incorrect information, the author attribution – ‘energy commentator for the FT and chair of The Policy Institute at King’s College London’ – fails to add his significant previous employment as Senior Policy Adviser in the Prime Ministers policy unit and BP’s Group Vice President for Strategy and Policy.
Not so: a scroll through the report saw no input from such companies and a word search of the report, using the names of three of the largest oil companies, found ‘no results’.
He concedes that the energy transition is indeed happening (see Bloomberg, above) but asserts that its impact is small and “on this analysis will largely remain focused on the generation of electricity”.
The report, Butler continues, gives a picture of two very different worlds.
“On the one hand, in the developed OECD countries energy demand in volume terms thanks to efficiency gains, minimal population growth and public policy — is static to falling and the supply is getting progressively cleaner. In the rapidly growing Asian economies, population increases and the desire to escape poverty are pushing up both demand and emissions shows an inherently unsustainable future. The trends it describes are a recipe for serious global warming and climate instability.”
As the website of UK Oil & Gas PLC (UKOG) reminds us, there is no alternative (TINA): oil is indispensable: it heats homes, provides fuel for water, air and road transport and is used in plastics, fertilisers, detergents, paints and medicines.
Is Butler unaware of research under way to redesign many of these products to eliminate oil use. The use of electric heating is growing and of electric road and waterway transport, mainly ferries? And though emissions will be reduced by increasing localisation of supplies, there will be some need for clean shipping; for nearly three years the first Chinese 2000-tonne electric cargo ship has been in business. Japan and Norway are also working in this sector, with Japan’s Komatsu Ltd developing its first electric-powered digger.
Many commentators see the need to phase out long-distance air travel, but there will always be the need for some air transport during emergencies and the BBC reports progress towards such a capability: July’s Paris Airshow saw the launch of the world’s first all-electric nine-passenger aircraft for which orders are now being placed
Years ago, Dave Lindorff wrote about ‘ecological cataclysm’: “it is useful to look at the hypocrisy of the energy companies when it comes to an even worse crisis threatening life itself on the planet – rapid climate change due to increasing carbon in the atmosphere”.
His advice is more reliable than Butler’s: Watch What Big Oil Does, Not What It Pays to Have Said.
Money Supermarket reports that more than half of fatal accidents on British roads involve HGVs, though lorries make up only 10% of the traffic. HGVs are involved in one in five fatal crashes on A-roads and an HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic.
Department for Transport figures are quoted, showing that 82% of articulated heavy goods vehicles exceeded the 50-mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% broke the 40-mph limit on single carriageways in 2013. Despite this, in 2015 government raised the speed limit for HGVs travelling on single and dual carriageways in England and Wales. An HGV over 7.5 tonnes can now travel along a single carriageway at 50 mph, up from 40mph. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways increased from 50mph to 60mph.
The arrival of even bigger HGVs (double articulated mega-trucks) and ‘platooning’ trials pending with a driver in the first cab, controlling the following vehicles has raised further safety concerns. Last year, the Government announced that trials of partially self-driving platoons of lorries were set to take place on roads in the UK by the end of 2018.
Edmund King, president of the AA pointed out that we have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries – and that platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.
A few recent accidents:
The northbound carriageway between junctions 38 (Huddersfield) and 39 (Wakefield) was closed after an HGV overturned following an earlier collision with a car. The HGV was fully laden with glass bottles that had to be unloaded and diesel that had spilled across all three carriageway lanes had to be cleared.
M6 was shut after lorry crash between J12 and J13, near Cannock. The HGV hit the central reservation and later caught fire. Three lanes reopened southbound just after 12:30. Northbound remained closed most of day.
The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.
The A38 was closed in both directions, between the A513 near Fradley and B5016 near Burton on Trent due to a crash and an overturned HGV. Around 40 tonnes of grain were spilled in the carriageway.
Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.
An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.
There were severe delays on the M6 southbound between Junction 16 and Junction 15 due to two lanes being closed following an HGV fire. There was approximately seven miles congestion back to J16.
There is an alternative:
A Route One article reviewed reports by continental researchers who believe that their findings offer some support to policies being developed at Pan-European level to promote new multimodal transport corridors. These involve rail, inland waterways, short-sea (coastal) shipping. The researchers concluded that shifting a greater proportion of freight from roads to rail, boat and/or ship for part of its journey would be a sustainable way of meeting continuing rises in freight demand and reducing numbers of road accidents.
The Freight by Water 2018 conference, part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions. Inland waterways across the world have proved to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials.
The conference highlighted several success stories and discussed several opportunities for freight by water, including the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. Its conclusion:
The time is right to increase freight using inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe as an alternative to road and rail freight.
In 2018, one of the longest dry spells on record left part of the Rhine in Germany at record low levels for months, forcing freighters to reduce their cargo or stop using the river altogether. Some inland ports lay idle and it is estimated that millions of tons of goods had to be transported by rail or road, raising costs significantly – twice or three times as much by rail and around five times as much by road, according to Handelsblatt Today.
The Rhine is vitally important to life and commerce in the region. Roughly 80% of the 223 million tons of cargo transported by ship in Germany each year travels the Rhine, which links the country’s industrial heartland to Belgium, the Netherlands and the North Sea. Parts of the Danube and the Elbe – Germany’s other major rivers – were also drying up.
The slump in the river’s water levels dented Germany’s economic growth by 0.4% in the final quarter of 2018 and by 0.3% in the preceding three months, according to estimates from JPMorgan economist Greg Fuzesi in January. Fuzesi said at the time he anticipated a 0.55% contribution to GDP in the first quarter of this year as the river’s water levels normalize. At least 0.7 percentage points had been shaved off economic growth last year, adding to a series of shocks that almost tipped the nation into a recession.
- Ships carrying the large and heavy components of a wind farm could no longer reach Kubler’s Mannheim terminal.
- Because they cannot be carried on rail, or for more than a couple of miles on roads, Kübler’s storage area at its terminal lay empty.
- This stopped the building of the wind farm.
- A trade group in Germany put farmers’ losses at several billion dollars.
- The German chemical giant BASF had to decrease production at one of its plants because the Rhine, whose water it uses to cool production, was too low.
- Gas stations in the region that relied on tankers to deliver from refineries in the Netherlands ran out of fuel.
- About half of Germany’s river ferries stopped running, according to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration
- River cruise ships had to transport their passengers by bus for parts of their journey.
- Thousands of fish in the Swiss section of the river died because of the heat and low oxygen levels.
- In November, natural gas prices increased 13% throughout Europe as coal barges could not reach coal-powered plants.
- The world’s largest chemical company BASF, which operates the world’s largest integrated chemical plant on the western bank of the Rhine, said the overall cost of 2018 dry season was $285 million.
- Steel maker ThyssenKrupp could not receive raw materials to one of its mills in Duisburg, forcing the company to delay its shipments to customers including automotive giant Volkswagen.
- Contargo, which usually moves approximately 50,000 containers a month on around 40 barges, was forced to reduce its operations to three barges. Its statement noted the situation had become so extreme that barges could no longer navigate the Middle Rhine without danger.
- Tourism was among the hardest hit sectors since the river is frequently used by boats cruising up and down the Rhine to visit castles, vineyards and other sights.
In January and February this year, Rhine barge operators introduced a low water surcharge on exports and imports, as – we noted – did Montreal shipping companies, when, due to the lower water level of the St Lawrence river, ships had a limited loading capacity and fewer containers could be loaded on board,.
Bloomberg reported that water levels at many Rhineland locations were now back to normal for the time of year and barges that handle hundreds of fuel shipments up and down the river each year were able to reach all destinations fully loaded — something they had not been able to do for months, according to Rotterdam-based broker Riverlake Barging.
BASF’s CEO Martin Brudermueller is calling for new locks and dams to be built to keep the river navigable in dry season. The shipping lane could be made deeper, but that would take years, if not decades, and would cost millions.
“Our research shows an increase in instability,” said Hagen Koch, who studies rivers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The extremes are going to happen more often.” The Rhine’s flow relies not just on annual rainfall, but also on enormous long-term reserves of water in the Alps. Melting snow and glaciers, as well as Lake Constance, feed the upper parts of the river, but with climate change, those reserves are lower. There are reasons to believe such weather will become more frequent with a warming climate.
The first big climate-friendly decision: Wales opts for “a high quality, multi-modal, integrated and low carbon transport system”
The Financial Times reports that plans to build an M4 bypass to reduce congestion on the M4 which links London with South Wales, were rejected yesterday by Wales’ first minister, Mark Drakeford.
He attached great weight to the “substantial adverse impact” on the environment, in particular the Gwent Levels’ Sites of Special Scientific Interest, their network of ancient waterways, wet grassland, reedbeds, saltmarsh and saline lagoons with endangered and rare species of wildlife, managed by Gwent Wildlife Trust and ‘an army of volunteers’.
Ian Rappel, chief executive of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, commended the decision to reject the UK’s most ecologically damaging motorway scheme.
The business community in Wales and the UK government had backed the project, although some economists had argued that increased road access to South Wales would have sucked investment out of the region to the more prosperous west of England. However, Mr Drakeford said the cost to the Welsh government and the project’s impact on other capital investments were not acceptable.
A point not mentioned in this article is that several studies (1994-2017) – including one accepted by the UK government – have found that the relief offered by such a bypass will be temporary, due to the ‘induced traffic’ phenomenon. When a new road is built it generates extra traffic because of the presence of the new road, many new trips are made and longer distances are travelled.
Wales passed the 2015 Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, which was hailed by the UN as a model piece of legislation for sustainable development.
The Welsh government, which also declared a “climate emergency” in April, is to set up a commission with a mandate to develop “a high quality, multi-modal, integrated and low carbon transport system” and recommend alternatives to the 23-km dual three-lane motorway bypass.
On Tuesday, the Institute for Public Policy Research launches its Environmental Justice Commission (EJC) and people are coming together across Conservative, Labour and Green parties to serve on it – leading figures from business, academia, civil society, trade unions, youth and climate activism.
Ed Miliband, Labour MP for Doncaster North and a former leader of the Labour party; Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion and Laura Sandys, a former Conservative MP for South Thanet, have written about this and many readers’ comments are well worth reading. Important points made are summarised below
Too often the issue of climate change seems marginal to the public’s concerns, when it is in fact central.
This will be done by committing to a Green New Deal (GND), with an unprecedented mobilisation and deployment of resources to tackle the accelerating climate crisis and transform our economy and society for all. Read more on the Green New Deal website.
Its aims are to:
- mobilise a carbon army of workers to retrofit and insulate homes, cutting bills, reducing emissions and making people’s lives better
- move to sustainable forms of transport and zero-carbon vehicles as quickly as possible, saving thousands of lives from air pollution
- end the opposition to onshore wind power and position ourselves as a global centre of excellence for renewable manufacturing
- protect and restore threatened habitats and
- secure major transitions in agriculture and diets that are essential if we are to meet our obligations.
People have been asking how we can revive communities that have been left out of prosperity. They ask whether they and their children will be able to get work and also what the quality of that work will be and what skills will be needed. ECJ believes GND has the potential to do this.
The areas of policy mentioned above answer the immediate economic concerns of people for jobs and hope. Green jobs must be secure and decently paid, with a central role for trade unions in a just transition for all workers and communities affected.
The commission will aim to help the UK to take a lead, believing that there is economic and societal advantage in doing so. An increasing number of people, young and old, see that the way we run our economy is damaging our climate, our environment and our society, but that, crucially, it is within our power to change it for the better. And change it we must.