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Ask the author: Phil Stride on London’s Thames Tideway Tunnel


Leading civil engineer and Tideway’s Strategic Projects Director Phil Stride reveals an inside look at how the ‘Super Sewer’ was planned, designed, approved, funded and is being built in his new book The Thames Tideway Tunnel: Preventing Another Great Stink, which provides both detailed historical background and a unique chance to see behind the scenes of an incredible civil engineering project that will transform London...

What drew you to working on London’s Thames Tideway Tunnel project?

I was drawn to work on the Thames Tideway Tunnel because of the transformational effect it would have on the health of the iconic River Thames in London.

Does London’s current sewerage system say anything about the history of the city?

London’s current sewerage system says a great deal about the city’s great Victorian heritage. Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s interceptor sewers were constructed to help eliminate cholera in the capital. Between 1848 and 1854 nearly 25,000 Londoners died of cholera, a disease borne by foul water.

What would happen if this project wasn’t undertaken?

If the project did not happen then 18 million tonnes of sewage, in an average year, would continue to overflow into the River Thames in London. It is simply not right to use the river, in one of the world’s greatest cities, as an open sewer.

How is the Thames Tideway Tunnel project unique?

The Thames Tideway Tunnel is currently the largest privately financed infrastructure project in Europe. It is also the largest project in the UK Water Industry for 150 years. The tunnel will be 7.2 metres in diameter and 25 km long, and will be constructed through one of the world’s most densely urbanised areas.

What has been the project’s biggest challenge to date?

The project’s biggest challenge to date has been the public consultation and gaining a Development Consent Order (planning permission for a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project) to enable the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel. The public consultation and the planning application were both the largest ever in the UK.

Did you learn anything surprising whilst writing this book?

The most surprising thing I learnt whilst writing the book was that very few books have been written on either the development or the construction of major infrastructure projects.

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