Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sainsbury's goods by water?

I heard the briefest little snippet of a story on the wireless this morning (the Today programme, to be precise) to the effect that Sainsbury's have a brave new scheme to move goods from their depot at Charlton to their branch in Wandsworth by water; presumably up the Thames, although this was never mentioned. Their spokeswoman noted that there were potentially another dozen London branches that might be similarly served, saving x amounts of carbon dioxide from road vehicles etc etc. I've seen no mention of this anywhere else, despite a quick Google and scan of the business pages (perhaps Andrew of Granny Buttons, with his ear to the PR grapevine, as it were, has heard more?).

Well, pardon my cynicism, but this doesn't sound very significant to me, especially given the vast distances all the goods will have travelled by road to reach the Charlton depot in the first place. While it might be nice (albeit in many cases not feasible) to see stuff being moved around the country (and not just the capital) by water rather than road, better surely to cut down on moving it at all; particularly in the case of supermarket stock, many of the movements are completely unnecessary, and only the result of increasingly centralised logistics systems.

The programme then went on to talk to Simon Salem of British Waterways, who (perhaps unsurprisingly; black mark to BBC researchers) seemed to know about as much as me about the Sainsbury's scheme, but was sort of semi-keen to press the case for water carrying more generally. I say semi-keen, because he kept stressing the potential benefits of wide waterways, using the expression explicitly two or three times. You'd think that with the job of getting more freight onto BW waterways he'd be a little less half-hearted.

Still, if Sainsbury's are serious about this, even if only as a PR stunt, let's hope that they set themselves up with a couple of nicely liveried boats ... actually, if there were still large scale carrying today, I suppose all the boats would be done out with grainily blown up photographs of bedewed fruit all over them, just like the lorries are. Perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies.

Update: thanks to Adam, here is a link to the Sainsbury's press release. Wonder what water transport potential there might be for their 'new energy efficient depot in Northampton'


Anonymous said...

This BBC employee has found a news release here:


S said...

Marvellous Adam, thanks - what I tried and failed to do. I'm going to update the post to include the link and hope that won't cause too much confusion.