“It is not too late to have an alternative to a super-sewer down the middle of the Thames,” Simon Hughes MP told Parliament this week.
The current solution is to pour millions of tonnes of concrete into building a super-sewer through the Thames to intercept the outflows from the sewerage system. That will be very expensive, costing an average of £80 a year for all of Thames Water’s household customers, and it will be hugely disruptive. In my constituency, for example, one site might be worked on for up to seven years. In addition, this solution deals with only one problem. It will efficiently keep sewage out of the Thames, but it will do nothing else.
Other countries across the world are doing things differently now. Places such as Detroit and Philadelphia and places in Europe started to think about building tunnels but have realised that greener alternatives may be better. Instead of building a big tunnel, Philadelphia now has small interventions: much more porous surfaces on roads, drives and car parks; and smaller sewage collection tanks across the city, rather than in a central place. People in those places believe that what they call a blue-green solution is a better solution and it allows parks to flourish, with the transformation of the city into a wholly greener environment. Such a solution also produces many more jobs at the lower skill levels more quickly than one big tunnel project does. Philadelphia and London may not be the same, but Greater Philadelphia has a huge population, just as London does.