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Thames Tunnel is a Victorian drainage solution, experts claim

Building the proposed Thames Tunnel sewage storage tunnel would keep the city’s infrastructure technology in the 19th century, Middlesex University professor of water economics Colin Green said this morning.

Green was speaking at the launch of the Thames Tunnel Commission’s report on the proposed project and said that he advocated instead a hybrid solution, including sustainable urban drainage systems (Suds) and green infrastructure — such as retrofitted green roofs — to solve the problem of sewer overflows into the river Thames.

“We need, not a 19th century solution, we need to at least get into the 20th century,” Green said, claiming that the UK’s use of drainage technology trailed behind countries such as Germany. “Germany has done this and it has been doing it for ages,” Green said. “Why have we fallen so far behind, and what do we have to do to catch up? The technology already exists — why aren’t we using it?”

Lord Selborne, who led the independent commission set up by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, agreed that Thames Water’s proposed Thames Tunnel — a major tunnel beneath London which would act as a storage tank when surface water from heavy rainfall exceeded the existing sewers’ capacity — was an outdated solution. The proposed tunnel was “more of the same of what was in Victorian times a masterly solution,” he said. “We have moved on [since then].”

Thames Water reaction

Thames Water sustainability director Richard Aylard said the company would not respond to the new report until it had fully digested the commission’s findings.

He estimated that it would take 10 days for the Thames Tunnel team to process the information in its entirety.

“I do take it very seriously,” he said.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Barry Walton

    Who is the 'we' that Colin Green (Hi, Colin) refers to when he talks of his hybrid solution. Presumably not Thames Water who would become a beneficiary of the German approach or at least would no longer be the resposible agency wrt the flooding. Thames Water';s solution is the one that work within their remit to solve a problem that they are seen as causing because surface water surcharges thier sewers.

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  • Mohammad Raza

    To alliviate a serious pollution caused to River Thames by London Sewer overflows, Thames Tunnel proposal appears to be most appropriate in such high density of old built up area. This may even be cost effective.

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  • The commission is absolutely correct in saying that this is a Victorian solution, but unfortunately, most of London which drains into Bazelgette's sewerage system is also Victorian. The UK government is faced with serious fines from the EU if it doesn't sort this problem very soon. SUDS needs some reasonably permeable soil (on London Clay?) or a lot of storage space (the Royal Parks?) and green roofs need to be relatively horizontal to keep their green cover in place. Great ideas, but wholly impractical.

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  • Could responders please read the commission's report before passing comments and then refute the report if they disagree.
    Vague generalities without evidence are unprofessional

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