Monday, 1 March 2010

Thames Water respond to Shaun Bailey

In this interview with me Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for our consituency, said this about the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the scheme supported by what seems to be just about everybody apart from our Council to deal with the chronic sewage problems we have in this part of London.


Thames Water contacted me shortly afterwards and its fair to say that they weren’t happy. A spokesman has responded to each of Shaun’s points about the Tunnel below.


The scheme is supported by the Mayor, other councils of all political stripes and the Government, but is referred to by our Council as the “super sewer crater“. Their campaign against the Tunnel, which I originally supported and called on you to support too, warned of dire consequences for our local parks – particularly Furnival Gardens. It turned out though that many of the claims the Council had made were dubious – and that they knew they were dubious when they made them.

Here’s what Thames Water had to say in response to Shaun's points about the Tunnel:

Shaun said:

Let me make one thing clear. No one, including me, wants raw sewage running into the Thames

Thames Water replies

Great to hear!

Shaun said:

On an issue as important as this, we need to know all of the available options.….I’m not convinced all of the options have been thoroughly considered….All viable options need to be thoroughly explored. What makes me uncomfortable about the Tideway Tunnel (sic) is that Thames Water seems to have had their mind made up about which option they wanted before they even looked at the other options

When the Channel Tunnel was built, engineers looked at a number of routes with a number of entry and exit points. In the end, they went with the one that made the most sense after all of the options have been thoroughly explored.

Thames Water replies:

Both the London Tideway Tunnels (the Thames Tunnel and the Lee Tunnel) have already been subject to many years’ detailed, independent evaluation, These have assess the various options and concluded that the tunnel are the best solution.

A wide variety of parties, such as the Environment Agency, the Greater London Authority and Defra were involved in the Thames Tideway Strategic Study (TTSS), chaired by Professor Chris Binnie, which published its findings in 2005.

A re-run of these studies would only unnecessarily further delay tackling this very serious, growing problem. We are currently working to identify the locations we will need to construct and operate the Thames Tunnel. Our challenge is to identify the optimum route that collects the sewage from the most polluting overflow points in the most cost-effective way, whilst also keeping disruption to a minimum. This is still very much ‘work in progress’ – we have not yet made any final decisions. We expect to submit our planning application(s) late next year.

It’s worth noting that the Channel Tunnel and the Thames Tunnel are entirely different beasts. The Channel Tunnel had to link two points – Dover and Calais. The Thames Tunnel has to link up with 34 CSOs, negotiating a wider variety of ground conditions. Also, there is in fact more than one Channel Tunnel, running side by side. This means during the construction phase it was easier to accommodate the need for workers to have emergency exit routes, without having to sink additional shafts.

Shaun said:

We need clarity on why they feel having the entry to the tunnel in Shepherds Bush is the right way forward. So far they have failed to convince.

Thames Water replies:

We have been at pains to point out that the entry point for the tunnel may not necessarily be in Hammersmith & Fulham. Nor is it a certainty that park land in the borough will be affected.

This summer our public consultation on our preferred route and sites for the Thames Tunnel will provide all interested parties with the opportunity to examine the detail of our proposals, and the route options and sites we have considered. We will review carefully the feedback we receive before proceeding.

One of the reasons we have begun our consultation so early is to ensure we are able to identify as soon as possible ways of minimising disruption.

Shaun said:

Also, the current scheme doesn’t even address the problem of flood protection – a very real problem in our borough…..

I want to see proper, private flood protection addressed through this project, which is exactly what the current scheme fails to offer.

Thames Water replies:

We are planning to continue major investment to tackle the separate but equally important problem of sewage flooding customers’ properties. We are pleased that our economic regulator Ofwat has recently sanctioned initial funding to plan and develop a major scheme addressing this issue in the area around the Counters Creek, affecting both the boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea. This has the potential to start construction in 2015, pending further approvals from Ofwat. Public meetings have been held to brief councilors and local residents from both boroughs on this important initiative.

By addressing CSOs in the Hammersmith area, the Thames Tunnel will substantially reduce the volume of untreated sewage carried further upstream on rising tides.

In decades to come the tunnel will also be an extra safety net capturing flows generated during dry weather, not just those generated in rainy conditions.

Shaun said:

Here’s what really gets me. Thames Water, a company posting huge annual profits, has not supplied any funding for their scheme and have failed to donate their own land to the tunnel. Instead they are calling for a public park to be used.

Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the entire bill in addition to giving up their own green space. No matter where the tunnel is build, we need to know that Thames Water are committed to helping pay for it and to using land they own.

Thames Water replies:

Wherever possible we will, of course, use land that we already own. We have specifically retained areas of land potentially surplus to operational requirement – including at our wastewater pumping station in Hammersmith, with a view that it may be needed for the construction of the Thames Tunnel.

Construction of the Lee Tunnel – due to start this spring – will begin and end on land we own.

As part of the ‘Price Review’ recently agreed with Ofwat and setting customers’ bills for the next five year period, we have secured funding to develop the detailed design of the Thames Tunnel.

The review also provided funding for expected land acquisition costs for the tunnel.

At no point have we ‘called for’ a public park to be used.

As you’d expect with a project of this complexity and magnitude, we have been systematically working our way through all the possible options for constructing this much-needed tunnel. There has been some very regrettable scaremongering about the sites that might be needed. When we come to announce our preferred route and sites for the tunnel this summer, many people will see that they have been misled by those responsible for fuelling the alarmist rumours about the sites we have had to consider.

The Government has decided that Thames Water’s 13.6 million wastewater customers, not taxpayers in general, should finance the Thames Tunnel (and the Lee Tunnel). In the same way that people in coastal areas have paid for Britain’s beaches to be cleaned up - at a much greater cost per head – the costs for constructing the Thames Tunnel will need to be factored into customers’ bills over time. The exact mechanism for doing this will need to be approved by Ofwat in due course, once the projected construction costs are finalised.

Shaun said:

This is way too big and expensive of a project to be rushed into.

Thames Water replies:

Given that the studies for the Thames Tunnel date back almost a decade, it’s difficult to see how the process is being ‘rushed’.

Shaun said:

It’s understandable that our community should have to carry our share of the inconvenience that would come with this type of project, it seems as though we are being asked to carry the entire load

Thames Water replies:

It’s misguided to claim H&F is somehow being unfairly treated. There are in fact 14 boroughs that are potentially directly affected by the construction and operation of the Thames Tunnel. The CSOs that we need to intercept or control are at fixed locations, adjacent to the river – as far east as the LB Newham, which is home to the sewage works where flows from the Thames Tunnel will be treated.

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