London will be home to the UK’s first eco-friendly high-speed passenger boats by the end of 2022. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers is set to operate its passenger riverboat services in the UK. It will be welcoming two new hybrid vessels to its fleet, the first of which will take to the Thames in autumn this year. The company recently made negotiations with a local council in Gravesend to purchase the town pier. This means London’s regular riverboat service could be extended to as far as Kent.
The two new boats are built on the Isle of Wight. These will be powered by batteries when operating in central London and switching to biofuel power while outside the central zone. Excess power from the biofuel engines will be used to charge the batteries, thereby removing the need for onshore charging. The first of the two new hybrid boats in the fleet will enter service in autumn 2022 while the second will arrive in spring 2023.
Sean Collins, CEO and co-founder of Uber Boat by Thames Clippers, has said the new vessels will be a “significant” step towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions in London. Collins further added: “It’s going to significantly take us on those next steps to net zero. It’s a significant milestone for the business and, indeed, it’s going to be the first eco-friendly passenger boat for London. It’s certainly a first for a high-speed craft in the UK and probably Europe that will be operating solely on batteries for part of its journey.” He also said that River Thames is “not fulfilling its potential” as an alternative means of transport in London and that it has “significant potential to do more”.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, last week warned that congestion on London’s roads could cost the economy as much as £5.1 billion as new figures revealed that car usage in the capital has almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Despite an increase in the number of people preferring to cycle more often than they used to after the pandemic, passenger numbers on public transport have still been slow to recover. This means that a greater share of journeys is made by car in London.
Sean Collins said: “The River Thames has got a significant potential to do more, both for passengers and light freight. I believe it has got a significant part to play in taking vehicles off the road. Historically we’ve noticed that we do that. A lot of our customers’ alternatives would be to take a taxi or to take a private car. But our customer experience is something that really would act as a real alternative to that private vehicle.”