Thames Tunnel report branded ‘illogical’

A commission report which suggests alternatives to the proposed Thames Tunnel, and that a level of sewage in the Thames should be 'accepted', has been strongly rejected by environmental, wildlife and amenity groups.

Lord Selbourne’s report into the proposed tunnel project, unveiled on October 31, claims a package of other measures, including a shorter tunnel and the use of sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) would bring sufficient improvements.

However, the Thames Tunnel Now (TTN) group, run by Thames Water, along with other environmental support groups has argued that the report “fails to provide a viable, economic or timely alternative to tackle the annual 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage that overflows into the River Thames from London’s Victorian sewers”.

The group also strongly rejected Lord Selborne’s suggestion that the public should tolerate levels of sewage in the Thames – even if it fails to meet acceptable limits set by the Environment Agency (EA).

Commissioned by a group of borough councils one of the suggestions the report puts forward is for a cheaper and shorter tunnel option to be considered.

Commenting on the report, Waterways charity Thames21 chief executive Debbie Leach said: “This report’s suggestions will not solve the problem. Should its views be accepted, the River Thames will be devastated by worsening sewage pollution.”

According to the TTN, the Selborne Commission has proposed that because of the current economic situation the UK should have lower standards of cleanliness.

However, the group is arguing that the Thames Tunnel will provide an effective and sustainable long-term solution to sewage pollution and is using data from Defra to back-up its claims.

Charity group London Sustainability Exchange chief executive, Samantha Heath, said that investment in London’s sewerage and drainage is essential now to ensure it can “withstand the impact of climate change for many years to come”.

She added: “We cannot afford to approach the issue of how we manage waste water half heartedly. London has grown and continues to grow, and we need to make sure that future generations have a world class sewage system that they can depend on”.

Despite its overall objectives, TTN welcomed the Selborne Report’s emphasis on the value of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and green infrastructure.

London Wildlife Trust chief cxecutive Carlo Laurenzi said: “By implementing such measures widely in new developments and also whenever there is practical opportunity for retrofitting, multiple benefits will be experienced and the Thames Tunnel future-proofed yet further. However, the full tunnel solution is still needed. Half a tunnel, as suggested by Selborne, will just not do the job.”

Carys Matthews

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