The positive environmental impact of using barges on the River Thames revealed

tideway barge thames

It has been an extremely busy first half of the year on the River Thames for the Livett’s Group with new fleet arrivals and work continuing on major infrastructure projects.

In February we welcomed the first of the new Tideway Class barges to London, with 1,500t Churchill being immediately put to work at Thames Tideway Tunnel’s (TTT) Carnwath Road site. Seven more barges soon arrived to complete the new fleet, while development on the TTT continued apace.

The barges were officially welcomed to the Thames with a review event held at Butler’s Wharf Pier in May, where guests were able to embark Pegasus to see the scale of the vessels up close. They were also shown the following video about how this addition of over 11,000 tonnes of capacity to the River Thames will bring major benefits to London, in particular their positive long-term impact on the environment.

Speaking at the event, Bennett’s Barges’ Managing Director, Chris Livett, stated: “Without Tideway having confidence in us as the river community and the river to deliver their projects, Londoners would have suffered intolerable road journeys by HGVs.”

On average, one large barge can carry the equivalent to 50 HGVs worth of material – and now the key environmental benefits of this have been revealed, following the release of TTT’s air quality testing results.

Back in November 2017, air quality monitoring equipment was installed on board Felix, one of the two sister navtugs designed to use the new barges alongside Christian. Felix, which has a 2008 Volvo Penta D16-MH 441kW engine, was then tasked with pulling 120t and 250t barges and emission monitoring was carried out to compare (g per tonne km) against the equivalent Euro V and Euro VI HGVs.

felix tug

Pollutant emissions monitored were nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NOx), nitrogen oxides (NO + NO₂), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO₂). Air quality comparisons of towing larger barges were then modelled based on this data.

The results of the TTT study were emphatic. It found that river transport produces less emissions than the road equivalent (per tonne km), even when compared with Euro VI HGVs. When using a 75% full 1,000t barge, there is:

  • 54% less NOx
  • 52% less NO
  • 86% less NO₂
  • 95% less CO
  • 90% less CO₂

The benefits are slightly lower for some pollutants when using smaller barges, but still substantial. When using a 75% full 800t barge, there is:

  • 47% less NOx
  • 35% less NO
  • 91% less NO₂
  • 95% less CO
  • 87% less CO₂

In summary, the bigger the barge, the better the benefit to London’s environment, air quality and traffic, with a huge number of HGV movements take off the roads.

“Look at what we have here [on the Thames]; a four-lane highway with no bicycles, speed bumps or pedestrians,” Chris Livett explained at May’s barge event. “All of the major construction projects in London should be using the River Thames, to ensure they are efficient, economical and environmentally friendly.

zeus barge

“It is indicative of what the future Thames looks like,” said Livett. “We are all working with the Port of London Authority (PLA) on the Thames Vision, and the aim of transferring more freight by water.”

More studies are planned to see the many further benefits of using the river, but the positive impact on air quality and the environment is already clear to see.