River Thames with Walkie-Talkie

A river tube line – the untapped potential of the Thames

07 August 2018

The River Thames is an underutilised transport goldmine that cuts through the heart of the capital.

The London Assembly Transport Committee has written to the Mayor of London to champion the waterway and urge him to give more thought to the expansion of river transport services.

Though passenger journeys have been increasing, the committee believes a number of issues need to be addressed urgently to achieve the Mayor’s and Port of London Authority’s (PLA) ambitious target of doubling passenger journeys on the Thames.  Regular and commuter journeys on the River Bus account for only 20 to 30 per cent of total passenger journeys on the Thames.

Given the importance of the river and the pressure on other modes, the Committee thinks it is essential for River Bus services to be given more support.

The letter recommends:

  • A River Ambassador to provide the leadership required to promote river passenger transport.
  • The importance of improving publicity, passenger information and accessibility.
  • TfL should address congestion around piers in central London.
  • The need to reduce harmful emissions from river vessels.

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee said;


"London’s river has fantastic potential to enhance our transport network, but it is being under-utilised.  What it needs is a champion to establish the River Bus as a key part of London’s transport network and to invite investment for new infrastructure or upgrades.


“We would like to see more emphasis on increasing regular and commuter journeys on the River Bus.  Accessibility also needs to improve, as there are a number of smaller piers that are not accessible.  And TfL needs to actively manage congestion around the central piers.


“We want to see a boom in river travel but don’t want to undermine efforts to reduce dangerous emissions. So, river-specific emissions standards need to be developed to reduce all river vessel pollution.


“What could be more charming than taking the Thames to work?”


Notes to editors

  1. The letter is here.
  2. Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, Chair of the Transport Committee, is available for interview – see contact details below.
  3. Since 2010, the total number of journeys on the Thames has increased from 6 million to 10 million. TfL says it is on track to meet its target for 12 million journeys by 2023.
  4. River Bus services run from 22 piers between Putney and Woolwich.
  5. There are five routes, all operated by MBNA Thames Clippers.
  6. In 2017, there were 4.2 million journeys on the River Bus.
  7. In 2016/17, there were 10.6 million journeys on all river services combined, compared to 10.5 million hires on the Santander cycle hire scheme and 122 million journeys on the DLR.
  8. London Assembly Transport Committee.
  9. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.


For media enquiries, please contact Alison Bell on 020 7983 4228.  For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officerNon-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.

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