The vital role that the River Thames plays in the economy, the movement of freight and the transport of passengers – and also in the wellbeing of the capital’s residents – has been made clear in two new reports launched by the Port of London Authority (PLA) this week during London International Shipping Week (Monday).
As London International Shipping Week opened, PLA chief executive Robin Mortimer revealed some significant data relating to the river, which is home to the UK’s second biggest port.
The tidal Thames and the Port of London generate 43,500 full-time equivalent jobs, of which 27,000 are people directly employed in port-related operations, with the remainder in the associated supply chain and support activities, he said. Port and maritime activities on the tidal Thames generate £4bn gross value added (GVA) a year, and some £1bn of new investment is planned in the sector.
Meanwhile, in a ‘groundbreaking’ assessment of the river’s amenity value, a second report shows that £2.4bn of GVA is generated by tourism associated with the river, while residents alone take 10m walks or bike rides along the river every year and there are more than 5,000 regular rowers. The ‘wellbeing’ provided by the Thames leads to a direct cost saving to the NHS, said Robin Mortimer.
The research was commissioned by the PLA as part of a year-long project to develop a ‘Vision’ for the tidal Thames, which stretches for 95 miles from Teddington Lock out into the North Sea.
The river has seen growth in all different aspects over the past decade, said Robin Mortimer, including cargo and passenger numbers, which have risen from 2m to 10m a year, as well as leisure use.
“Overall, the Thames is a growth area: it contributes a vast amount to London’s economy,” he said.
Perry Glading, COO of Forth Ports, which owns the Port of Tilbury, welcomed the report and the move to increase awareness of the Thames.
“As far as Tilbury is concerned, it is all about how we can work as consolidation centre for central London. Our investments are very much geared around what our customers need and what the supply chain is telling us,” he said.
A total of £75m is being invested at Tilbury this year by the port and customers, he said. Tilbury is handling nearly 16m tonnes of cargo a year.
Lucy Haynes, CBI London regional director, said: “The Thames is quite clearly part of our heritage and culture, but also part of our future.”
Investment in infrastructure is a top concern for businesses, she said, “But what I don’t hear enough is talk of the Thames within that context. These reports are part of the process of raising the profile of what the river itself contributes to the economy and society. It is extremely important.
“The second really important point is around the supply chain and role that the Thames has within the supply chain process. We know that by strengthening the domestic supply chain, you create opportunities for business of all sizes, and that is a great opportunity.”
Robin Mortimer said the PLA’s commitment to ‘safeguarding’ wharfs for port use remained crucial in making sure the sites were available for moving freight.