01 August 2007 | Paul Snell
A group of MPs has urged the government to introduce a "carbon credit" scheme to boost the amount of freight transported on water.
A report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee said the government needed to review methods to encourage businesses to transfer to the waterways.
"If the government is serious about transferring more freight on to the waterways, companies themselves require further financial incentives," the report said.
Transporting freight by water produces 80 per cent less carbon dioxide than the same journey by road. A new lock and water control system in East London will mean 140,000 fewer journeys for lorries delivering construction materials for the 2012 Olympics.
British Waterways (BW), the agency responsible for caring for Britain's canals and rivers, had promised to double the amount of freight transported by water by 2010. But the amount transported has fallen from 4.3 million tonnes in 2000, to 3.4 million in 2005.
The committee also said it was "extremely concerned" about how spending cuts of 5 per cent imposed by the comprehensive spending review (CSR) later this year would affect BW's ability to meet the government's expectations.
"BW says a funding settlement in which its grant level was reduced by 5 per cent in real terms would result in a £35 million under-spend on major works by the end of the three CSR years alone. The network would not then be 'fully fit-for-purpose'," the committee said. "We recommend that BW and Defra work together closely to agree a CSR 07 settlement that ensures the long-term stability of the waterways network."