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Viewpoint: Out of the shadows into the spotlight

Long in the shadows of public consciousness, London Tideway Tunnels are finally emerging into the spotlight, says head of London Tideway Tunnels Phil Stride

Lee Tunnel

The Lee Tunnel is the first of two we’re proposing to substantially reduce the amount of untreated sewage discharged from London’s Victorian sewers.

Subject to Section 106 agreement negotiations, the key local planning authorities have this summer resolved to grant planning permission. The Lee Tunnel construction contract will be the largest awarded in the UK water industry.

An extensive short listing process has whittled the bidders down to just two. We are on track to appoint a preferred bidder later this year and plan to start work on site early in 2010.

Thames Tunnel

Detailed technical surveys for the longer and even more technically challenging Thames Tunnel are rapidly gathering pace.

Our team developing the tunnel’s design are focused on working out how it will connect to the 34 most polluting combined sewer overflows.

These are the points which the great Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed into the sewerage system to allow sewage to flow into the river after rainfall events, rather than back up on to the streets of London.

“Our initial engineering challenge is to ensure we fully understand the ground conditions.”

Our initial engineering challenge is to ensure we fully understand the ground conditions we’ll need to negotiate during the construction, due to begin in 2012.

That’s the reason why a large borehole rig has appeared in the river outside the Houses of Parliament. Over the next nine months a trio of rigs will be helping us understand the ground conditions deep beneath the river bed. To ensure we have a complete picture, it’s an exercise we’re repeating at over 100 sites adjacent to the river too.

Another recent important milestone has been the publication of our Site Selection Methodology, following extensive consultation over the last year with the local authorities and other organisations potentially affected by the Thames Tunnel’s construction.

“There’s a long way to go, but at last, after years of debate, we are now well on the way to getting an effective solution in place.”

Key planning consultees have also helped us develop our Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, which we will continue to refine this autumn in line with government guidance for consultation relating to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.

(The Thames Tunnel has the potential to be considered by the new Infrastructure Planning Commission).

Severe summer downpours, the increasing regularity of which are a key driver for the tunnels, have also served to remind us and the public at large of just why our project is so desperately needed.

It’s totally unacceptable for an average 32Mt of sewage to overflow into the nation’s premier river each year.

There’s a long way to go, but at last, after years of debate, we are now well on the way to getting an effective solution in place.

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