Journalist Simon Kuper (left) points out that in recent decades, urban rivers have been neglected. There is, as coronavirus prompts a ‘remake’ of cities for the age of working from home and Amazon Prime, a need to return the waterways to service.
Many canal and riverside warehouses have become waterfront apartments some with ‘hipster’ restaurants – urban waterways are now‘ natural play spaces’.
Climate change targets are prompting city administrations to reclaim the streets from cars and lorries.
Kuper insists that to do that, they’ll have to shift more traffic back to the waterways — but this time cleanly and silently, using the coming generation of electric ferries, barges and short-haul cargo ships.
He admits that ferries go slowly, but adds: ‘so do cars stuck in traffic’.
Ferries already transport 2.1 billion passengers a year (including 108 million a year in Istanbul alone) and London plans to double its annual total of riders to 20 million by 2035.
Though passenger traffic may diminish as an urban issue if working from home gets entrenched, one form of urban traffic keeps growing: deliveries.
To this call should be added the role of waterways in moving industrial freight – see the current contribution to building the Thames Tideway super sewer .
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