Thames Water sets out why London must emulate Victorian’s investment in core infrastructure to remain competitive on world stage.
Growing problem of sewage pollution to River Thames through central London requires a long-term solution, Thames Tunnel MD tells project ‘Jobs and Skills Forum’.
Short-termist approach would let down future generations: “The Victorians saw planning for the future as a moral obligation. It’s now time for this generation to do the same.”
Over 500 people already working on taking forward Thames Tunnel solution. During construction phase approximately 9,000 people expected to be employed.
London’s proposed new ‘Supersewer’ is not just an environmental and legal necessity, but also has the potential to be a historic catalyst for economic growth and prosperity across the capital.
That was the message from the Thames Tunnel Managing Director, Mike Gerrard, when he addressed the project’s second annual ‘Jobs and Skills Forum’ (24 May), co-hosted by business organisation London First.
Attended by business leaders and local authority representatives from across the capital, the forum discussed how to maximise the long-term opportunities the construction of the 15-mile Thames Tunnel could bring for all Londoners.
As well as helping to tackle increasingly frequent discharges of untreated sewage into the River Thames from London’s overstretched, Victorian sewerage network, the Thames Tunnel is a prerequisite for future economic growth in the capital. These discharges currently occur once a week on average and can be triggered by as little as 2mm of rainfall.
Alongside projects such as Crossrail, the project is also set to provide a platform for training and employing a whole new generation of engineers.
Mike Gerrard told the forum: “The Victorians demonstrated a commitment to inter-generational legacy, to building something not just for today, but also for tomorrow. It is now our turn to do the same. It is not enough to just keep the existing infrastructure going. We have to shift from a make-do-and-mend mind set and plan for the future.”
Drawing on his experience working on other major infrastructure projects around the world, Mike stressed the need for every pound on the project to work on three levels: Meeting the requirements of the project itself, stimulating the local economy, and providing a springboard for British businesses to grow overseas.
On this last point, Mike explained how the Thames Tunnel must succeed where other projects have failed. He said: “Over the last forty years, North Sea oil and gas production has seen tens of billions of pounds pass through the Scottish economy. But how many domestic Scottish companies in this sector have grown to become world-class players in their field? Very few. Too few.
“Similarly, the PFI programme has seen more than seventy billion pounds of capital investment pass though the UK economy. But how many home-grown companies have used this opportunity to grow to become major international players in this field? Not nearly enough.”
Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, told the forum: “If London is to continue to thrive and grow, it needs world-class infrastructure that befits its world city status.
“Though selecting construction sites will never be easy or popular, major infrastructure projects like the Thames Tunnel are essential if London is to remain a world-leading business centre and tourist destination.”
The forum also discussed how the Thames Tunnel team can learn from best practice adopted by other recent major infrastructure projects, for example by providing training opportunities for the long-term unemployed and setting contractors strict targets on the use of local labour and suppliers, whilst also complying with legal requirements designed to ensure a cost-effective tendering process and value for money for Thames Water customers.
Notes for editors
Main construction for the Thames Tunnel is due to start in 2016. Having conducted two extensive periods of public consultation in the last 18 months, Thames Water is due to publish its finalised scheme in summer 2012. This is due to be submitted for review by the Planning Inspectorate in early 2013.
Listed in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement (November 2011) as one of the country’s top 40 most important infrastructure projects, the Thames Tunnel is expected to directly create over 4,000 jobs at the peak of its planned seven-year construction phase, and a further 5,000 indirectly, generating the equivalent of 19,000 employment years.