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Thames storm tunnel is a white elephant, says academic

A high profile water engineer this week described the £2bn Thames Tideaway Sewage Tunnel as a white elephant and urged Thames Water to consider alternatives to the scheme.
Sheffield University professor of urban drainage Richard Ashley told the ICE's evidential hearing on climate change that 'the Thames Water sewage tunnel is the biggest white elephant.' He said it was repeating what Bazalgette did when he build the stormwater sewers under the Victoria Embankment.''They're building the tunnel because the system can't cope with the levels of storm water and of course they'll go and build a desalination plant because of water shortages. There is no joined up thinking,' he said. Water regulator Ofwat has already expressed its concerns over the 32km, 7.2m diameter stormwater tunnel, which it thinks could cost much more than expected. At depths as low as 80m engineers have said it would push the limits of tunnelling experience.One senior industry figure who did not want to be named sympathised with Ashley's view but said there was little else Thames Water could do. 'It is hard to see a real alternative, I don't disagree in the general sense with what he is saying but what else could you do?' Ashley suggested retrofitting storm water management systems but the senior figure claimed this was unfeasible feasible. He said 'it's simply not possible to tackle the problem at that end. Capacity couldn't be sufficiently increased at sewage plants to cope with that volume of water, nor would it be realistically possible to store it to process later.

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