Monday, September 7, 2015

New Studies of Freight and Social Influence Calculate Amenity and Economic Value of the Thames

Port of London Commissioned Surveys Spell Out Health and Financial Significance to the Public
Shipping News Feature

UK – As promised in our piece last week the Port of London Authority (PLA) revealed today, at the start of London International Shipping Week (LISW), the results of two reports commissioned from SQW and Oxford Economics: ‘The River Thames’ Economic Prosperity’ looking at freight and trade on, and along, the river, and ‘Adding Value: The River Thames’ Public Amenity’ which clearly demonstrates the huge role the great waterway still plays in the social life of Londoners. This first true study weighs up the ‘amenity value’ of the Thames which it calculates at over £100 million in health benefits for residents alone, many of whom enjoy the 10 million or so bike rides and walks along the towpath every year.

Despite the abundance of port traffic which has developed elsewhere around the country the commercial influence of port traffic in the river remains huge, site of the nation’s second biggest port and with five million tonnes of freight moved between river terminals every year. Besides this vital supply line keeping families across London and the south east supplied with food, fuel and life’s essentials, the river supports over 40,000 jobs linked to port operations, however the amenity value has always been far more difficult to calculate and that was part of the brief for these latest studies, as PLA chief executive, Robin Mortimer, explains:

“We knew the Thames was economically important and this data underlines that, as it supports over 43,000 jobs and generates over £4 billion for the economy. What’s really new with this research is the first attempt to gauge the less tangible, amenity value of the river, for example how the Thames supports the health of people using the river and towpath for sport and recreation; and how this globally recognised river contributes to tourism spend in the capital.”

The PLA commissioned the research as part of a year-long project to develop a Vision for the future of the tidal Thames, the 95 miles of river that stretches from Teddington Lock through the heart of the capital to the North Sea. Discussing the findings at the launch of the reports at Tower Pier today were Perry Glading, chief operating officer of Forth Ports, which owns the Port of Tilbury; CBI London regional director, Lucy Haynes; and Thames Festival director, Adrian Evans, who commented:

“This research underlines the importance of the Thames as a magnet for both Londoners and visitors to the capital. Riverside attractions are now welcoming 23.4 million visits a year, generating jobs for almost 100,000 people in riverside wards. Totally Thames, our month-long season of river and riverfront sport and cultural events attracts over 2 million people to the Thames, both adding significantly to local riverside economies and allowing the river to delight and inspire, enhancing quality of life.”

Robin Mortimer pointed out that the Thames was ‘unrivalled’ as an outdoor gym with those walkers and cyclists accompanied by the 5,000 people who regularly row parts of the river. He calculated that this physical activity was valued by those taking part at £132 million, with the improved health and wellbeing of participants estimated to save over half a million pounds a year for the NHS. He said that these new figures shed light on the vital role the river plays in millions of people’s lives and that they would also help the PLA as it develops its’ Vision for the Thames’ for the next 20 years, ensuring that it plays an even greater role and is enjoyed by more people for trade, travel, leisure and sport.

The research also showed that £1 billion of new investment is planned for Thames port and marine operations over the next five years. New investments include two new fast ferries for MBNA Thames Clippers which are due to be delivered this month, a new engine line at Ford’s Dagenham plant, Stolthaven’s new bitumen import facility and the continued development of London Gateway Port. Perry Glading, whose Forth Ports group includes the Port of Tilbury, the biggest single port operation on the river, explained the attractions of the Thames as a place to invest:

“It’s all about connections, the Thames gets you to the doorstep of the largest consumer market in the UK. We’re making continued significant investment in facilities for our customers, keeping Tilbury at the forefront of access to London and the South East. Our new distribution centre for Travis Perkins, where building materials can be distributed within hours of coming off a ship, shows that port-centred logistics is the way to go. That’s what attracted NFT Distribution to develop their new temperature-controlled distribution centre at Tilbury, with more than 300,000 square feet of new warehouse space and over 800 new jobs.”

Oxford Economics completed the ‘Adding Value: The River Thames’ Public Amenity’ study whilst the financial impact report : ‘The River Thames’ Economic Prosperity’ was undertaken by SQW Limited, and Lucy Haynes, CBI London Director, observed:

“With over 10 million people expected to be living in the capital by 2030, it’s vital we see a boost in river transport for both passengers and freight to keep the capital moving. The River Thames is London’s lifeblood, and has a key role to play in enabling the city to grow and compete globally”