New tunnel to give London a 21st century River Thames

Posted: Thursday 22nd March 2007

An unprecedented project to clean up Londonís River Thames has been announced - the biggest project of its kind ever undertaken in this country.

A 30km tunnel will intercept sewage and rain water discharges along the length of the river and transport the waste water for treatment in east London.

Londonís current sewer network, which was built by Joseph Bazalgette in the second half of the nineteenth century, was hailed as a major engineering achievement in its day, and collects sewage and rainwater run-off together.

Today, with the climate changing and the city expanding, the system is under pressure and 52 million cubic metres of untreated sewage and rainwater pollute the Rivers Thames and Lee each year - enough to fill the Albert Hall about 525 times. Of this, 32 million cubic metres comes from sewer network overflows, which provide the only safety valve to prevent the overloaded system from backing up and flooding homes and streets.

The discharges kill fish, create a higher health hazard for users of the river and damage the aesthetic appeal of the Thames.

Environment minister Ian Pearson said: "I think most Londoners would be shocked to hear that, because of an historic but increasingly outdated sewer network, a huge amount of untreated sewage and rainwater is spilling into the Thames at least once week. This is unacceptable.

"This tunnel is the right solution for London and for the environment. It will give us a twenty-first century River Thames that we can all be proud of.Ē

This announcement follows six years of detailed work by a range of specialists. In particular, the reports by the Thames Tideway Strategic Study, the independent review by consultants Jacobs Babtie, and the reports recently completed by Thames Water have been instrumental in helping determine the solution. All recommended a major tunnel under the Thames.

The project is expected to be delivered by 2019/20. The cost has been estimated at least £2bn. The economic regulator Ofwat will be tasked with ensuring that it is delivered cost effectively. It is estimated that it will add around £37 to Thames Water sewerage bills by 2017.




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