£4.2bn Thames super sewer will rival the Channel Tunnel - and increase your bills by £80

 

With a tunnel snaking 65 metres below the Thames, and a capacity of 1.6 million cubic metres, the proposed new “super sewer”, running from West London to Stratford, will be the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the UK water industry.

Whilst regulators have questioned the cost of the £4.2 billion project, Thames Water insists that without it, the Thames will again act as an open sewer, the role which it played more than 150 years ago.

The 1,300 mile network of Victorian sewers and river embankments was built in the 1860s by the engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette to intercept raw sewage that had previously ended up flushed straight into the Thames.

Politicians bemoaned the "Great Stink" arising from a river in which Londoners regularly bathed and even drank from. Benjamin Disraeli condemned the “Stygian pool” which contributed to a waterborne cholera outbreak that killed 40,000 people, many of whom had drunk river water into which raw sewage had been deposited.

Whilst Bazalgette’s sewers are in good condition, they cannot cope with the demands of London’s rising population, which is expected to hit 8.6m by 2031, nor the modern city’s showering, dish-washing and, possibly, water cannon-spraying needs.

The sewers overflow on a weekly basis, flushing 55 million tonnes of raw sewage – the equivalent of eight billion toilet flushes - straight into the Thames each year.

The Northern Outfall sewer being built below the Abbey Mills pumping station The Northern Outfall sewer being built below the Abbey Mills pumping station (Getty Images)
The solution, the 15-mile Thames Tideway Tunnel, would intercept the sewage which flows during heavy rains and divert it to East London for treatment before it is discharged into the river.

The “megaproject” requires a tunnel more than 7m in diameter, comparable to the Channel Tunnel, and which will take 10 years to build and cost £4.2 billion - nearly half the cost of the 2012 Olympics.

From Acton’s storm tanks to the Abbey Mills pumping station, the tunnel will connect to each of the combined sewer overflows that are located along the riverbanks, passing underneath the capital’s other infrastructure.

Read more:
In-depth: Campaigners label super sewer a 'monster'

There will be three main “drive sites” where tunnel boring machines are lowered into the ground and driven below the riverbed to construct the tunnel from the east, west and central locations.

Innovative engineering in the design phase has already reduced the tunnel from the initial 32km proposed, down to 25km, and reduced the number of construction sites needed from 45 to 24.

Thames Water estimates that household bills will have to rise by £80 a year to finance the sewer. But industry regulator Ofwat last year rejected proposals to impose an eight per cent rise on customer bills, saying the utility was not doing enough to control costs and pursue delinquent customers. This week, Ofwat said the company had failed to justify £331m million in the project’s costs.

Thames Water hopes to being preparatory construction work next year, if planning permission is granted, with tunnelling due to begin in 2016 and a targeted completion date of 2023.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, the television producer and Arts Council chair, who is the great-great-grandson of Sir Joseph, supports public investment in the super sewer, saying: “These major public works need to be done.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence