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Cost forces Agency to rethink Thames Barrier maintenance

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THE ENVIRONMENT Agency has commissioned consultant Posford Duvivier to examine whether the Thames Barrier can survive the next 100 years without repainting to avoid a maintenance bill of up to £60M .

The decision to examine a 'do nothing' option comes after a Posford report last year suggested the most economical option to repaint the barrier would cost around £20M and take six years to carry out.

The Agency is concerned by the report's prediction that the gates would need to be overhauled at least three times in the next 100 years, pushing costs to £60M. However, it is now aware that rising sea levels mean the barrier will have to be raised or replaced by 2100.

The barrier has not been repainted since it opened in 1984. Thames Barrier mechanical engineer and quality manager Martin Earlam said that Posford had only looked at a few repainting options.

'Now we are extending the original study to do a condition survey looking at the do-nothing option,' he said. 'If that is out of the question, then we will have to paint. My feeling is that the barrier would not last.'

The Posford report found that although the barrier's current paint coat was in better condition than expected, it still needed to be repainted. It also found the inside of the gates to be in a much worse condition than the exterior because they never had the chance to dry out.

The best option for carrying out the work, it said, was to remove one 1,500t gate at a time and carry out the work ashore. A cofferdam would be built around each gate to allow work to proceed.

Earlam confirmed that one of the financing proposals was to ask businesses protected by the barrier to pay for the overhaul.

Richard Thompson

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