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Barges and lorries needed for Thames Tunnel spoil removal, says project boss

Thames Water is refusing to bow to pressure from councils to use the River Thames for all material movements to and from Thames Tunnel work sites, head of London Tideway Tunnels Phil Stride said last week.

River transport is too costly to be used exclusively, Stride told NCE’s Tunnelling 2010 conference. Stride said Thames Water was keen to use some river transport, but “not as keen as the London boroughs”.

Thames volunteered to the use of river transport in the project’s early stages, and Stride said a combination of lorries and barges is likely to be used. “We need to get the right balance.

“I think [using just river transport] would be a very expensive way of managing all our 22 sites, both in terms of bringing material to site and taking it away.”

All spoil produced by contractor MVB Lee Tunnel from Thames’ Lee Tunnel site in Beckton is being removed by barge.

“Up to 1.7M.t of material will be removed by barge instead of road. That can make a real difference to traffic,” said MVB Lee Tunnel project director François Pogu.

Stride reiterated to NCE after the conference that Thames Water remained committed to using the River Thames.

“We remain committed to using river barges to transport spoil away from Thames Tunnel work sites as a less disruptive and less carbon-intensive alternative to using lorries. It may not be economically and logistically viable to use barges at each work site, but where it is we will use them.

“From the outset of this proposed project to clean up the River Thames, we have made clear our intention to do the work in a way that treads as lightly as possible on the surrounding environment. Using river barges to transport spoil is all part of that.”

Stride also said go-ahead for the Thames Tunnel will depend on a decision from the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit which will replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

He said a planning application for the Thames Tunnel will not be made until mid-2012.

In September, environment secretary Caroline Spelman said the Thames Tunnel “should be dealt with under the regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects”.

She said Defra would use the Planning Act 2008 to ensure this.

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