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Light freight in the Thames Estuary

The River Thames has enormous, untapped potential for handling light freight.

Making better use of the river for moving light freight will have far-reaching, positive net zero implications for the region and the UK:

  • Supporting UK Government’s net zero strategies.
  • Creating new jobs.
  • Reducing carbon and particulate emissions.
  • Reducing congestion on our roads.
  • Creating opportunities for innovation and greener transport models.
  • As well as bringing about many social benefits.

We have begun engaging with river operators, delivery companies and potential end users. If you are interested in being part of making better use of the River Thames for light freight, join us.

We have co-commissioned two reports with the Port of London Authority (PLA)

>>Read the latest news about light freight on the river Thames.

Mode Shift Revenue Support (MSRS) – Light Freight Analysis Report

The ‘MSRS – Light Freight Analysis Report’ highlights the changes needed to the government grant scheme in order for it to support operators to move freight by water from road.

While the Government’s Mode Shift Revenue Support (MSRS) scheme aims to remove short-term financial barriers preventing companies moving away from road transportation and reducing CO2 emissions, the analysis prepared by WSP UK , outlines several ways in which the funding criteria inadvertently disadvantage light freight.

The analysis within the MSRS report considers both light and heavy freight, and highlights a number of barriers as well as enablers, and provides a succinct evidence base that informs the case for reforming the MSRS scheme.

Aerial view of London over the River Thames

What is in the Thames Estuary Light Freight Feasibility Study?

While there is limited activity currently, this comprehensive feasibility study compiled by WSP UK indicates that, at the right scale, it will easily be competitive with road freight.

In our light freight feasibility study you can find out about:

  • The framework for developing a viable light freight solution on the River Thames.
  • Current and potential scale of river use for light freight.
  • Business sectors that would benefit.
  • Benefits for both business and the wider public.
  • Clear next steps for making this a reality.
  • Opportunities for investment.
River Freight Report cover

Benefits of using the river for light freight in the Estuary

River freight service within the Thames Estuary could generate many benefits including:

  • £3 in net additional economic benefits per parcel (20m parcel / year scenario).
  • Modal shift – decarbonising the freight network:
    • reducing air and noise pollution.
    • reducing congestion on roads.
    • reducing road traffic accidents.
  • Employment creation – supporting local levelling up needs.
  • Skills and training opportunities.
  • Net additional economic benefits over and above BAU and ‘Do Nothing’ scenarios.
  • Catalysing improvements to existing riverside infrastructure including safeguarded wharves.
  • Opportunities to take advantage of existing and emerging technology in zero carbon transport, both maritime and road based, and support net zero ambitions.
Graphic showing the benefits of the Thames Estuary river freight study.

Sectors that would benefit from using the river for light freight
  • Parcels.
  • Food.
  • Drinks.
  • Retail goods.
  • Potentially many more.
Plain cardboard box on doorstep - Greener logistics would reduce our impact as consumers.

Key recommendations in the feasibility study
  • Establish a coordinating body to facilitate river investments.
  • Show how operations at the key points – loading, unloading and last mile – can work seamlessly and efficiently to attract anchor customers.
  • Develop detailed options for pier development that minimise costs and maximise market access.
  • Realise the social benefits of river freight through revenue support mechanisms and understanding of customer willingness to pay for environmentally friendly deliveries.
  • Push for limited increases in road pricing to facilitate an enormous reduction in van traffic.
  • Enter discussions with large, innovative online businesses that can become the potential anchor clients that will achieve the 20m parcel target.
  • Support the development of proof-of-concept trials, including those currently underway.
Close up of tree sapling

The investment and development opportunities

Our ambition is to deliver projects in a short timescale. We want to drive forward better and greener use of the River Thames.

We invite investors, researchers and developers, businesses and universities to get in touch to be part of this exciting project.


Graphic saying our ambition os to deliver projects in a 2 to 3 year time scale.. Contact us today

Why the Thames Estuary Growth Board is developing better use of the river for light freight

Our work is about unlocking the vast potential of the Thames Estuary, the UK’s best growth opportunity. The region has the potential to create 1.3 million jobs and add £190 billion to the nations’ economy by 2050.

We are committed to unlocking this through good, green growth and making this the cleanest Estuary in the world. Read about our plans in the Green Blue.

Our region currently produces more carbon emissions than any of the UK’s industrial clusters, changing that through better use of the river will make a significant impact on the country’s emissions.

We are proud to be driving forwards better and greener use of the river with partners in the region including the Port of London Authority, who have co-commissioned this important report with us, and recognise the excellent current examples of river use for parcel trade (by DHL for example) and hospital supplies (Guys and St Thomas NHS Trust with CEVA Logistics).

The Green Blue our vision

Light Freight Feasibility Study

Contact us today!