In June 1858 parliament considered moving itself to Oxford. The reason? The Great Stink.
With no sewage system to speak of, an overcrowded London had become a centre of grime and an intolerable smell.
The solution? Sir Joseph Balzagette’s sewer network designed to revolutionise the way wastewater flowed through the capital.
Fast forward nearly 170 years and MPs are once again considering a move away from the House of Commons and London is once again in need of a new major sewage works.
The Thames Tideway Tunnel is now under construction and to kick off Open Doors 2017 in London, Construction News was invited on a Thames Clipper to see progress on the £4.2bn super sewer.
The trip involved visiting a handful of the 24 sites along the 25 km tunnel route.
The sewer will be split into three parts: east, central and west sections, with consultants and contractor teams working to complete the sewer by 2022.
The trip began with a brief history lesson of London’s sewer system and run-through of the project’s main sites from Putney in the west to Beckton in the east, delivered by Tideway’s communications executive Michael Appleton and head of stakeholder engagement Geoff Loader.
Tideway head of stakeholder engagement Geoff Loader compares the project with Crossrail, which had much longer but narrower tunnels. “But surely it is more about how you use the tunnel,” one of the attendees quips.
While delivering the tunnel is a mammoth task in itself, the first challenge is getting enough people to work on it.
Currently there are 2,500 people working on Tideway.
The project expects to create more than 4,500 sustainable jobs, and see nearer 20,000 working on the project in total.
This includes aiming for one in every 50 workers to be an apprentice, one in every 100 to be an ex-offender, and to have a 50:50 male-female split on the client team.
Alongside me on the trip are reps from the Job Centre, tasked with getting the unemployed into construction and working on the capital’s construction projects, including Tideway.
Also part of the trip were Westminster College’s first year BTech civil engineering students.
The group of 30 or so students will no doubt make up the next cohort of workers that will build our Tideways, Crossrail 2s and HS3s.
Between conversations with the students about mid-1990s hip-hop and the merits (or non-merits) of Drake, the students told me about their courses and what they wanted to do in the future in their construction careers.
Whether it was infrastructure or buildings they were interested in, all said the trip was great in helping them to understand better the avenues there were out there to enter the industry.
One of the students told me: “Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly where to go to find the apprenticeship opportunities out there. This trip has shown me the places to go and I’ve been able to speak to those companies directly.”
Project name: Thames Tideway Tunnel
Contractor: Various East: West BMB JV (Bam Nuttall / Morgan Sindall / Balfour Beatty)
Central: FLO JV (Ferrovial / Laing O’Rourke)
East: CVB JV (Costain / Vinci / Bachy Soletanche)
Start and projected finish dates: Start 2016; finish 2022
Location: Acton in the west to Abbey Mills in the east.