With their tube drivers threatening to strike again and doubts being cast on their Olympic preparedness, Transport for London are really in need of a decent 'good news story'. And it may be that the canals of London could provide them with one.
This week TfL announced that they'd recently completed a "major new study" along with British Waterways, which "demonstrates that canals can offer a cost-effective and greener alternative to road haulage and help reduce congestion on London's roads"
Looking at an area around the 42km 'lock-free' section of the Grand Union Canal in west London, the study concluded that use of the canals "could potentially take 640,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of materials off the roads and save around 530,000 lorry-miles a year."
Which is great and everything: it takes lorries off the road, cuts down on pollution and accidents...but how many companies are going to be open to the idea of barge freight? Isn't there a reason it went out of fashion in the first place?
TfL claim that by using the waterways companies can save "around 50 per cent" on their haulage costs, while British Waterways reckon that they can double the amount of freight on the canals by 2010. A statistic which will no doubt come as a bit of a shock to the tens of thousands of people who currently use the canals for leisure purposes like boating and fishing.
How will they react, for example, when TfL announce they want to transport 300,000 tonnes of municipal waste on their canal?
Londonist would be interested to see how long distance lorry drivers take to the idea of barges and canals though. Will we see a growth in riverside greasy cafes? Will their CB radios still work? And where will they put their collection of slightly manky cuddly toys?