Thames Tideway Tunnel an ‘expensive folly’, critics claim

Critics of London’s super sewer, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, have claimed it is an “outdated and expensive folly”, which is not needed to maintain the Tideway’s water quality.

The Thames Blue Green Economy (TBGE) group – a coalition of water industry experts, engineers, academics, politicians and environmental representatives – have insisted construction of the tunnel must be stopped and alternatives put in place, “before more damage is done and more time and money is wasted”.

It also called for an official review as to how the licenses and contracts for the tunnel were bid and awarded, and an investigation by ministers into the “suspect” financing arrangements for the project.

“We believe that the evidence shows that Thames Water’s tax arrangements represent a tangible and significant ethical failing, which, in governance terms, should be of material interest for TW’s corporate owners,” it said.

“These actions should, ideally, be taken as a matter of urgency before Macquarie sells off Thames Water.”

The group claimed Thames Water was “loading the costs” of construction for tunnel onto water consumers across the whole of its region, and not just the Inner London area that the tunnel is supposed to serve.

“Additionally, although the tunnel is supposed to be an entirely private sector venture, the government has agreed to underpin the total costs from public money,” it added.

A spokesman for Thames Water said: “Tideway and Thames Water are working together on preparatory works for the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

“The tunnel is urgently needed to prevent tens of millions of tonnes of raw sewage polluting the tidal River Thames every year.”

However, TBGE said: “Raw sewage is not discharged to the Tideway.”

It said the discharges are mainly rainwater with a small proportion of foul water, and that integrated water resource management should be implemented instead to deal with those “rare occasions” when London’s drainage system cannot cope with storm water run-off.

“Integrated water resource management packages are now used by cities all over the world to maintain river quality in a sustainable manner,” the group said. “London is the only city pursuing the very disruptive option of building an enormous and unnecessary concrete tunnel underground.”

“The Thames Blue Green Economy (TBGE) group is opposed to the [Thames Tideway Tunnel],” it said. “We favour a cheaper, quicker, more effective and environmentally positive set of options to manage water flows in the capital, namely integrated water resources management.

“These types of measure, combined with the new sewage treatment works and the Lee Tunnel, will obviate the need for the hugely expensive [Tideway Tunnel], which appears to be little more than a boondoggle project for Thames Water, their executives and shareholders.”

Construction on the Thames Tideway Tunnel is due to start later this year and is due to be completed by 2023. However, Tideway – the company in charge of the Tunnel – has said it wants to reduce the delivery timetable by up to two years.

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