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London Going Underground: Thames Tideway Tunnel

The Thames Tideway Tunnel - designed to tackle sewage problems in London and in particular, in the River Thames, has begun. Work began in December 2015 to build a new pier for Thames Clippers to run from whilst the tunnel is built. This significantly marks the start of the project which will get underway this year, with tunnelling in 2017. The project will be completed in 2023 if all goes to plan.

Thames Tideway have said that there will be a need for the relevant professions throughout the build phase, from quantity surveyors to engineers, plant operatives and fitters. But also in unlikely supporting professions such as mariners and boat masters.

The Enormity of the Project

The Tideway Tunnel is to replace the existing sewage system originally installed in the 19th century when the population of London was around 2 million. The same antiquated system has been trying to cope with the effluent of more than 8 million and not surprisingly, it has been struggling.

Two other factors besides the population size are playing a part. It takes more water to deal with increasing amounts of sewage and with lessening green space, there is nowhere to soak up rainwater. With predicted hotter and drier summers due to climate change imminent, river levels will be lower too.

The existing system isn't coping, despite the fact that this original system had built in Combined Sewage Overflow points along the banks of the Thames in case it became over capacity.

The need for improvements has been highlighted by the fact that in recent years, 39 million tonnes of untreated waste water and effluent has over-spilled into the Thames around 50 plus times a year.

The new tunnel will make overspills less likely and much reduced, and the river will be cleaner and more pleasant for all - including fish.

Going Underground

This seven year infrastructure project has been costed at £4.2 billion. The tunnel will run 16 miles from east to west, mostly following the route of the Thames. At Abbey Mills it will branch off to connect with Lee Tunnel, which is already under construction, to take the waste on to Becton Sewage Treatment Works.

The tunnel itself will be 7m in diameter and will be built 25m to 65m below ground. There will be 24 construction sites during the build plus three main 'drive sites' where tunnel boring will take place. The sites will include office and barge facilities to be in place before the tunnelling can start.

Tunnelling will be carried out 24 hours a day at several different sites at the same time. The tunnel's design allows it to borough a metre deeper for every 790 metres that it travels. This is to enable the sewage to flow naturally through the tunnel from one end to the other. Obviously there are obstructions the tunnel must avoid, such as the London Underground.

The barge facilities will be used to remove the excavated materials. This is estimated at 4.2 million tonnes and mean a 30% rise in river traffic during the period.

Expertise Needed Throughout the Construction Period

For the UK construction industry this offers multiple ongoing opportunities in London for all levels of quantity surveyors, planning and site engineers, plant operators and other specialised openings.

As the project will take seven years to complete, there should be many opportunities arising. Like you, we will be keeping our eyes on this project so if this is your area of expertise and interest, please make sure that you submit your CV to us so that you don't miss out on any of these opportunities.

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Steve Thomas
Director - Hong Kong & UK Construction Recruitment Specialist

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