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Freight Traffic: Navigable Waterways

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 28 October 2021

7. What steps he is taking to encourage the use of navigable waterways for freight traffic; and if he will make a statement. (903872)

Of course I want it, especially when it is from that particular Member; he is always at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions and I thank him for that.

The Government are providing £20 million through the Department for Transport’s mode shift freight grant schemes in 2021-22 to support rail and water freight services on routes where they deliver environment benefits over road haulage but are more expensive to operate. Responsibility for the operational matters and management of the inland waterways rests with the relevant navigation authority and Ministers have no role in that.

I thank the Minister very much for her reply, and for her kind comments about me, which I thought were rather nice.

The all-party group on waterways, which I have the honour of chairing, has identified that about 1,500 miles of our 5,000 miles of navigable waterways are suitable for freight. In addition to the measures the Minister has just outlined, has her Department given any thought to reintroducing the freight facility grants for wharfs and handling facilities?

I am genuinely interested in my hon. Friend’s work. This area comes under Department for Transport responsibilities; it does not have any plans as such to reinstate the freight facilities grant in England, but the Government are of course very interested in the shift to getting freight transported in other ways. The fund I mentioned earlier has mostly gone to rail because the case has to be made for whether it is better to do it by water, so I recommend that my hon. Friend gets in there and makes that case, remembering of course the other great benefits of waterways, especially through cities, for health and wellbeing.