Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Battle lines drawn over Thames Tunnel

The row over the proposed Thames Tunnel mega-sewer intensified this week as central and local government bodies, the Environment Agency and 15 charities and organisations took sides on the issue.

Despite Thames Water’s announcement that the project cost has risen from £3.6bn to £4.1bn, environment secretary Richard Benyon has reaffirmed the government’s support for Thames Water’s plans. “We continue to believe that a tunnel represents the preferred solution for dealing with the untreated sewage that is polluting the River Thames,” he said.

The Environment Agency stated its own support for the project soon afterwards. “Doing nothing is not an option,” said Environment Agency chairman Lord Chris Smith. “We consider the Thames Tunnel the best solution available to limit pollution from sewage in the Thames.”

A group of 15 organisations relating to the environment, wildlife, rivers and boating, including water charity Thames 21, also formed the Thames Tunnel Now Coalition and stated their preference for the project. “People are driven away by disgusting and abhorrent levels of sewage [in the Thames],” said Thames21 chief executive Debbie Leach. “Research has shown clearly that the Thames Tunnel is the best solution, and we need it delivered without delay.”

Opponents of the project were equally vocal this week. Lord Selborne’s independent commission published its report on Monday, criticising the project for being unnecessary and rushed. Five London local authorities — Hammersmith and Fulham, Tower Hamlets, Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark and Richmond — stated their support for the report and their objection to the Thames Tunnel being presented as the only option to reduce river pollution from combined sewer overflows (CSOs). Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh — who commissioned Selborne’s investigation — also wrote to the Financial Times newspaper this week, urging Benyon to “put a stop to this monstrous white elephant”.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Proponents of the scheme have been so convinced that intercepting the CSOs is 'the answer' I suspect they have forgotten what the question was in the first place. If they took a step back and thought about what actual improvement they get for the 4.6Bn you would have to question whether the scheme is really worth it.
    To add some context it cost, if I recall, about 0.5Bn to reduce the sewage attributable 'significant' fish kill events modelled in the Thames from ~8 per year to ~2 per year by improving the wastewater treatment plants. The tunnel will cost 4.6Bn to get from ~2 per year to ~0.5 per year - these are modelled not real fish kills remember, and there is an argument about the use of refugia that suggests the model might overestimate the sewage impacts. Certainly the Thames, now, has heathier fish communities than it has had for centuries.
    I could go on, non of this is new and is all in the public domain. The only thing that seems to change is the cost goes up, and the resolve of the proponents to build the tunnel regardless continues.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.