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Thames Tideway Tunnel Project

The Port of London Authority backs the drive to find a solution to the problem of dumping 39 million cubic metres of raw sewage into the Thames in west and central London every year. (Through the wet winter of 2013/2014 a peak of 55 million cubic meters was recorded.)  The existing sewage system, built in the 19th century, simply cannot cope with the increased demands of a modern and growing capital.


Resolving this problem will benefit London by cleaning the river upon which it was founded.  The need is especially urgent for the river community and those concerned about the Thames environment, particularly those most affected by the pollution: rowers, canoeists, sailors, houseboat dwellers, people living next to the river and those enjoying walks along the towpaths.

Construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel will be a massive undertaking.  It is set to take some seven years and will involve 11 construction sites in the side of the river.  Our work spans the planning, construction and subsequent monitoring of the scheme.

Planning and preparing

We have been working closely with Thames Water for more than five years as they develop plans for the tunnel.  We are an expert contributor to the planning process and are now assessing and licencing the river works involved in tunnel construction.  The project is generating much additional work and we have appointed a dedicated harbour master to oversee our work on it and additional staff have been recruited in our planning, environmental and hydrographic teams.

The harbour master’s main role in the planning phase is to look carefully at plans involving the river, assessing the risks to ensure that any navigational safety and environmental issues are properly addressed.

We have actively advocated the increased use of the river for tunnel construction sites, removing tunnelling spoil and delivering building materials.  This is essential as it will help to minimise the impact of the scheme on local residents.  The Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) support the use of the river to help keep lorries, with the associated pollution and safety hazards, off London’s roads.

We are also working with the GLA and TfL to ensure that existing passenger and freight operations on river are safeguarded, consistent with the policies in the Mayor’s River Action Plan and London Plan.  More than eight million passenger trips are taken on the Thames every year; the five million tonnes of freight moved on the Thames helps keep 265,000 lorries off the capital’s congested roads.

At the same time, we are starting to get the river ready and prepared for construction, for example by installing the moorings that will be needed for barges moving supplies to and from riverside sites. 

During construction


The river through London is set to be increasingly busy once the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel starts, as Thames Water’s contractors begin operations alongside the existing passenger and freight services.

To help ensure that all river traffic can stay safe we will:

• increase co-ordination of barge movements from our navigation control centre at Woolwich
• provide local traffic control from launches on the river where needed
• monitor compliance with conditions in our river works licences
• work with all river operators to find solutions to issues where they arise

This is a huge project. We will do all we can to mitigate its impact on river activities, nevertheless we anticipate some disruption during the tunnel’s construction.