It was politician and London chronicler John Burns who said the Thames was “liquid history”.
Today, however, it wasn’t the river’s past but its future that was under the spotlight.
The Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision 2035, which launched this morning at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, set out its vision for the river over the next 20 years.
At the heart of this was how the construction sector could better utilise the capital’s waterway to transport construction supplies to and from the city’s biggest projects.
The Thames is already a key route for London’s construction materials: more than 7.3m tonnes of aggregates were landed at wharves across the Thames last year.
Yet despite this, PLA chief executive Robin Mortimer says the Thames is still underused.
Over the next 20 years he wants to double the amount of construction supplies moved on the Thames each year.
For developers and contractors under increasingly tighter sustainability targets, the benefits should be clear.
For every 1,000 tonne barge transporting on the river, more than 100 lorry journeys are taken off the road, reducing carbon emissions and increasing safety.
The challenge is to get developers and contractors to understand these benefits and create a modal shift that sees the river as the turn-to option for those building and developing projects close to the Thames.
This has started.
Already the PLA has used its powers to ensure major infrastructure projects like the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Northern Line extension are using the river almost exclusively to move materials and waste.
The latter will see more than 600,000 tonnes of waste moved along the Thames to Essex’s Tilbury docks.
Yet while these projects have embraced the Thames, it is now crucial others follow suit.
This won’t happen naturally.
Mr Mortimer says local authorities should encourage more river use through planning requirements that would force firms to use the river to transport supplies.
”It is about getting the sector to think river first”, he says.
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