My Stretch: commuting down the River Aire

Each day, two Dutch water taxis shuttle people along the River Aire in Leeds. Waterfront hops aboard to meet the commuters and visitors making use of this quirky service

 

In the frenetic heart of central Leeds, a pair of bright yellow Dutch water taxis called Twee and Drie ply a quiet stretch of the River Aire between the train station and the regenerated Leeds Dock area. It’s a free service, and for hundreds of passengers a day it’s the quickest and most convenient way to get to work or to visit attractions such as the Royal Armouries. Come rain or shine, snow or ice, the skippers shuttle back and forth, chatting with the regulars and introducing newbies to their stretch of river. For many commuters, the peaceful ten-minute ride is also a precious window of calm between train-based purgatory and the office grind, and a whole new group of professionals are discovering first-hand just what a bit of time on the water can do for your wellbeing.

Rianne Docteur, local
“It’s just beautiful. I empty my head every morning – I just sit and look at everything and I don’t have to think. I literally live just round the corner, and I take the boat most days. If I’m feeling a bit healthy then I’ll walk, but four days out of five I get the water taxi – one healthy day is enough.”

Rianne DocteurRichard Green, boat skipper
“Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t say ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I never knew this was here.’ I enjoy having these little 10-minute chats when each new person gets on. A lot of the people who live on boats in the dock use the water taxis. There are threads of communities all the way down the Aire and Calder. It’s a good thing they’ve done, putting some working boats back on the river. It keeps the river alive.”

Richard Green, SkipperJosh Wall, local
“I’ve come from Leeds Dock, that’s where I live. I’m going to the train station to head down to London. I use the boat probably once a week. You cut straight through the city – not many people know about it, I don’t think, so it’s pretty quiet. You can sit outside if it’s a nice day and it gives you a little bit of a holiday feeling sometimes when there’s people around.”

Josh WallJames Hickman, commuter
“I work over at Leeds Dock. It depends what day it is and what meetings I’ve got, but if I come in on the train I always get the water taxi, even if I have to wait. It gives me five or ten minutes in the morning just to completely switch off and enjoy the journey. It’s just five minutes of relaxing even when it’s chucking it down.”

James HickmanJack Dudman, visitor
“I’m here visiting an office down at Leeds Dock. I’ve got the delights of rush-hour train traffic, and I thought I might as well take the water taxi while I’m here. I deal with water in my job, so this kind of thing appeals to me. If I wasn’t doing this I’d walk. I love walking along the canals – I do that in Skipton quite a bit.”

Jack DudmanJohn Hayden, regular
“I’m just going to the bus stop. I live on a boat, and I’m in Granary Wharf for the moment. I’ve been using the water taxi since it started. It’s getting busier now with actual commuters – it’s the most convenient way to get from one side of Leeds to the other, and the most relaxing.”

John Hayden

Simon Tipple, boat skipper
“I’ll just pop up and see if any of my other regulars are about before we set off. We do have definite regulars, and I often hang on for them – it’s that personal touch. This here’s the start of the Leeds & Liverpool canal. I’ve done it loads of times, but I’m a big fan of the South Oxford Canal and the Kennet & Avon too. Every canal’s got its own little eccentricities.”

Simon Tipple, skipperAlice O’Carroll, commuter
“It always cheers me up, especially on a sunny day like today. The commute from Manchester isn’t very pleasant and the trains are always delayed so it’s quite nice and refreshing to come on a little boat ride in the morning. I take it more or less every day, and I tend to walk back on an afternoon. I’m from North Wales originally – I live on Anglesey so it’s quite nice and familiar to be back on the water, even in the middle of the city.”

Alice O'Carroll

What’s your favourite cycling route, towpath café or place to unwind beside water? We love hearing why our waterways have a place in people’s hearts. Email us at whatsnew@canalrivertrust.org.uk to let us know favourite stretch.

Victor De Jesus