TfL Wants 20 Million River Passengers On The Thames By 2035

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 33 months ago
TfL Wants 20 Million River Passengers On The Thames By 2035
TfL wants to double river passengers in the next 15 years. Image: Shutterstock

TfL has set out a bold strategy that would see the number of annual trips taken on its Thames river services double from 10 million to 20 million by 2035.

TfL's river services carried more than 10 million passengers in 2016/17. Image: TfL

The Pier Passenger Strategy Action Plan [pdf] sets out a return to the Thames as a main artery for the city's transport — helping to free up roads, and achieve mayor Sadiq Khan's target of making 80% of all trips in London by foot, bike or public transport.  

What's the big plan?

One of the plans for more piers in the east. Image: TfL

Without the Thames, there'd be no London. It's been in use since the Romans built the Port of London here in 50AD. From the mid 20th century, there was a steep decline in its use — but still, in 2016/17, 10 million people used TfL's river services. With the help of the Port of London Authority (PLA), boat operators and private stakeholders, TfL wants to double this number within 15 years.

Among the proposals in the new report are:

  • An increase in the number of piers, especially in east London, at locations including the Isle of Dogs, Barking Riverside and Thamesmead. Some of these piers, TfL says, would be privately funded, developer-led piers
  • River services that are better integrated with other transport
  • Increased safety for river passengers — with a 'Vision Zero' (no fatalities) approach

What about pollution?

The balance TfL needs to get right is increasing the number of vessels, and cutting emissions. Image: Shutterstock

The river has a long history of being besmirched by various toxins. In 1297, the Earl of Lincoln decried the waters as undrinkable [pdf], due to waste from tanneries. There have been problems with pollution ever since, although in recent years, concerted efforts have been made in a push for cleaner water. Of course, doubling the number of vessels will have an impact.

Proposed eco ferries from Thames Clippers and Beckett Rankine Marine Consulting Engineers. They don't yet appear in TfL's piers plan

TfL's report suggests charging less for cleaner vessels, and that existing piers will need to be upgraded with charging infrastructure to accommodate hybrid and fully electric (zero-emission) vessels.

There's not much in the report about new boats though — something that will need to be addressed. We're reminded of a recent proposal from Thames Clippers and Beckett Rankine Marine Consulting Engineers, featuring eco-friendly ferries. The technology is there; as ever it's going to be a question of funding.

Last Updated 17 December 2020