At 25-kilometers long and 65-meters below ground, Thames Tideway Tunnel is the largest water infrastructure project ever undertaken in the U.K.
It will modernize London’s 150-year-old sewer system, originally built for a population less than half its current size, reducing untreated discharges into the River Thames by tens of millions of tons per year.
Three kilometers of the tunnel, which will prevent millions of tonnes of sewage polluting the Thames, have now been constructed and four giant tunneling machines are digging deep below the capital. Once completed in 2024, it will create a cleaner, healthier River Thames and enable the capital’s sewer system to continue to serve London for at least the next 100 years.
Jacobs has been the program manager for the Thames Tideway Tunnel since 2009, building on our record of delivering major urban wastewater treatment projects globally. The Thames Tideway Tunnel is the kind of highly complex program that Jacobs enjoys tackling; with multi-site delivery and significant challenges demanding innovation and better ways of working to achieve the best outcomes.
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U.S. tons (39M tonnes) – the average amount of untreated sewage currently discharged into the tidal River Thames each year
Providing additional sewer capacity to ensure the city has a sewerage system fit for at least the next 100 years
Constructing the deepest continuous tunnel in Europe - over 25km long and over 65m deep
reduction in sewage pollution when the super sewer is in operation, alongside other sewage network upgrades
The scale of the Tideway project, and its place at the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities, means we have an historic opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for London. The primary purpose of the Thames Tideway Tunnel is to reduce sewage overflows into the River Thames and improve its water quality. But beyond that, our vision to reconnect London with the River Thames is an ambitious statement of intent and reflects our desire to deliver wider benefits to London for years to come.
Creating a cleaner, healthier River Thames
The Thames Tideway Tunnel is one of the most significant infrastructure projects being undertaken in London. Once complete, the sewer relief tunnel will create a cleaner, healthier River Thames and will enable the capital’s sewer system to continue to serve London for at least the next 100 years.
Running from Acton to the Abbey Mills Pumping Station in Stratford, it will help treat 42 million U.S. tons (39 million tonnes) of sewage that is discharged into the tidal Thames each year.
Jacobs is program manager, working collaboratively as part of an embedded team, alongside our client and wider supply chain. We are driving the implementation of market-leading program management functions through all phases, including planning consents, preliminary and final design, construction oversight, stakeholder communication, change and risk management, project control, commissioning and start-up of new facilities.
Our water and tunneling experts are helping deliver one of the most challenging wastewater projects in Europe. New sewer relief tunnels will intercept 24 of the most polluting combined sewer overflows (CSOs) where untreated sewage is being discharged into the tidal Thames. Pollution will be reduced by 94% when the super sewer is in operation, alongside other sewage network upgrades.
With over 30km of new sewer, up to 65m below street-level, the tunnel will run beneath London’s complex network of utilities and London Underground lines. We interface with all the major stakeholders in London, including Transport for London, the Environment Agency, the Port of London Authority, the Historic England, and the Marine Management Organisation, as well as the numerous London Boroughs through which the scheme passes.
Innovative thinking led to a unique business delivery model. Privately financed and delivered by an independent infrastructure provider, regulated by Ofwat, this was the first time that this financing model had been used in the U.K. water sectorfor strategic, regulated assets. These arrangements are key to make Tideway’s risk profile similar to that of an established U.K. regulated water company.
Construction of the tunnel started in 2016 following the successful Development Consent Order (DCO) application. This is commonly recognized as the largest and most complex DCO delivered to date. We led the planning and writing of the 125,000-page DCO submittal and the stakeholder engagement and communications activities, including 48 public hearings, to achieve DCO approval in September 2014.
Given the complexity of this program, some of the greatest challenges faced were controlling costs and delivering to the regulatory schedule. At the outset, we gave the highest priority to developing robust and appropriate contracts, in procurement and in the final stages of release. We used value engineering techniques throughout planning and design, and our continued drive for efficiencies and cost savings has resulted in significant savings by adjusting the tunnel alignment and designing the hydraulic system to control overflows to the River Thames without needing to construct at every overflow point. This has minimized disturbance to local residents, while increasing confidence and reducing cost. Throughout the construction phase we continue to use lean construction, collaborative planning and continuous improvement techniques to deliver to schedule and reduce costs.
A thriving community and environmental asset
We have worked with our client to develop a transformational health and safety approach to Tideway construction, building upon best practices learned from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and from Crossrail. We supported the development of leading-edge activities such as Tideway’s Project Employer Induction Center (EPIC) and Mates in Mind, which has had a positive impact on our industry’s health, safety and wellbeing record.
The Thames Tideway Tunnel will not only create a sewer network that will serve London’s growing population for at least the next 100 years, it will also provide a much-needed boost to the city’s economy by providing thousands of skilled jobs and hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities. Once completed, the water quality of the tidal River Thames will be greatly improved, making it one of the cleanest rivers in Europe and enabling communities to enjoy the river for recreational and business activities. Seven new public spaces with a total of more than three hectares of new land will be built along the river. This includes the extension of London’s iconic embankments.
Moving 90% of materials by barge is increasing the amount of river freight three-fold and reducing the number of lorry or truck journeys required to build the tunnel.
With London’s growing population expected to increase to 10 million by 2030, the Thames Tideway Tunnel will play a vital role in laying the foundations for human progress in the city. City-wide, Jacobs is tackling a variety of complex infrastructure challenges and is proud to be playing a part in ensuring London remains one of the world’s most competitive cities through a world-class infrastructure network that continues to bring social and economic benefits.
Being a Tideway apprentice means I can do my qualifications while getting experience working on one of London’s most exciting infrastructure projects.
- Edie Sustainability Leaders 2019 - Mission Possible: Mobility Award.
- British Construction Industry Association (BCIA) Awards 2018 Health, Safety & Wellbeing Initiative of the Year Award (in partnership with Active Training Team).
- Ground Engineering Awards 2018 Health and Safety Award (in partnership with Active Training Team).
- Engineering News-Record (ENR) 2016 Global Project of the Year – Thames Water Lee Tunnel.
- Royal Town Planning Institute Silver Jubilee Cup (the U.K. and Ireland’s most prestigious planning award) 2015.
- Institution of Civil Engineers Awards 2012 Greatest contribution to London Award and Infrastructure Award.
- Project Innovation Award, KPMG Infrastructure 100, World Cities Edition 2012, awarded to CH2M and Thames Water.
Engineering News-Record: Thames Tunnel Seeks to Turn the Tide on Pollution
Infrastructure Intelligence: Huge step forward for London’s 25km super sewer as tunnelling begins
Tunnel Business Magazine: London’s Super Sewer Becomes ‘Longest Tunnel Under the Thames’