TRANSPORT OFFICIALS and Olympic construction organisers were this week locked in a dispute about how to get construction materials to the Olympic park.
The mayor's Transport for London (TfL) department wants to use local waterways, but the London Development Agency (LDA) proposals rely heavily on road transport.
The outline plan put forward by the LDA in the planning application document for the site is for all construction materials and waste to transported by road.
The LDA is organising the Olympics construction programme before the Olympic Delivery Authority comes into being early next year.
But TfL's freight department and canal operator British Waterways have united to press for East London's derelict waterways to be revived and used instead.
It is understood that the LDA was due to submit a precommencement strategy setting out in detail its plans for materials and waste transport to TfL last week.
This has been delayed while attempts are made to hammer out a deal.
The ultimate decision will be made by Peter Hendy, managing director of TfL.
Forcing the LDA to opt for the waterway route would put further pressure on the construction programme.
This is because bringing the waterways up to the capacity needed to service the Games site will take until summer 2007 at the earliest.
The work will cost an estimated £10M but the cost of transporting materials by water is as little as a third of the cost of transporting it by road.
Using the waterways would also take up to 500,000 lorries off East London's roads and signifi cantly cut carbon dioxide emissions.
'We entirely understand the position the LDA is in, ' said a British Waterways spokesman.
'The Olympic Park is an enormous project and it cannot be delayed.
'No-one has transported much by waterway for 40 years and we understand the presumption for roads. But this stacks up economically and if it can't work here it can't work anywhere.' For the waterways to be used effectively they must be capable of handling 7,000t of material per day. This means the capacity of the River Lea and the Bow Back Rivers network must be increased to allow 350t barges to operate.
At present the tidal nature of the rivers limits capacity to 120t barges, with access limited to two hours before high tide.
Capacity could be increased by impounding the waterways network behind a lock at Prescott channel, around 7km north of the River Thames.
The LDA said that its plan was close to being finalised but that environmental benefits had to be balanced with cost and construction schedules.
'We are exploring ways to optimise both rail and water use. Any solution will need to take into account a number of practical factors, including environmental impact, cost and construction schedules, ' it said.