A Vision to behold

The Thames Vision is gathering pace across a series of strategic goals for the river.

Fulham A Vision for the future – pupils learning with Fulham Reach Rowing Club

We all have our ‘to do’ lists. Many of them probably contain a few vague or even unrealistic goals. And, sadly, many of those lists have a habit of getting longer rather than shorter.

Some ‘to do’ lists are more robust. The Thames Vision, launched by the PLA in 2016, provided a concise list of six goals. The list is of ambitious, but attainable, goals. There is a total commitment to getting things done and crossing things off the list.

Over the next two decades we can expect goals to be updated and the tasks to broaden out, reflecting changing circumstances and reviews of progress.

After all, this is a Vision for a mighty, successful, happy and healthy river!

The Thames Vision is for the development of the river over the next 20 years, and its goals cover trade, travel, environment and culture.

In October 2018, the PLA published a detailed progress report which showed that delivery of the Vision is progressing well. Predictably, progress is swifter in some areas than in others – for example, the PLA has led the Thames Litter Forum in launching the Thames Litter Strategy and worked with the Greater London Authority on the development of a cultural strategy for the river, and there has been an unprecedented upswing in the underlying volume of freight being moved between wharves on the Thames.

“The Thames Vision gives everyone a shared understanding of what we want to see the Thames used for – not what the PLA wants, but a collective view. The Vision was developed after many months of research and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders,” says the PLA’s director of corporate affairs and strategy, Alistair Gale.

The progress with Thames Vision goals are, in summary...

The busiest ever Port of London: volumes for 2018 were over 53 million tonnes, and London is close to reclaiming the title of the UK’s busiest port.

More inland freight, taking lorries off the roads: underlying intraport freight increased from 2.39 million tonnes in 2015 to almost 3.4 million tonnes in 2017, and these underlying volumes are forecast to continue their growth alongside Thames volumes generated by major infrastructure projects such as the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Double the number of people travelling by river, to reach 20 million commuter and tourist trips a year: this is a more challenging area, with passenger trips dipping slightly through 2017/2018, due to security concerns and the Woolwich ferry service suspension as new boats were brought into service. However, new piers are opening alongside the arrival of new vessels, networks are expanding and the prediction is for growth.

A riverside which is a magnet for ramblers, historians, artists and others: it is unusual for a port to take this interest in cultural aspects but, as Alistair Gale says: “Connecting more people with the Thames is important – prompting people to go to the banks and enjoy and appreciate the river can make them feel more engaged and therefore keen to look after it more.” The PLA is now one of the main sponsors of the Totally Thames festival, which brings people together to celebrate the river.

Greater participation in sport and recreation on and alongside the river: a sports participation study identified a strong baseline of activity and opportunities for increasing participation in the future. The PLA is working with national governing bodies and a number of sports clubs in order to boost participation. More visitor mooring information has been provided on the website, a missing link in the Thames Path has been opened between Charlton and Woolwich, and Tideway has launched an annual Foreshore Festival, giving everyone the chance to try out river-based recreational activities at Putney and Shadwell.

The cleanest River Thames since the Industrial Revolution, with improved habitats and awareness of heritage: initiatives here have included the launch of the Thames Litter Strategy, the setting of baselines and calculation of capital for biodiversity, invasive species and gaps in habitat, the launch of the Air Quality Strategy, investment in the UK’s first hybrid pilot cutter, and the ‘Green Tariff’ discount now being doubled, to encourage cleaner, greener shipping into the Port of London.

“Connecting more people with the Thames is important...the river can make them feel more engaged and therefore keen to look after it more.” Alistair Gale PLA director of corporate affairs and strategy Tideway

Fulham Towards a cleaner river, the Thames Litter Strategy launch