Thames Tideway Tunnel
It’s remarkable that there are only two European projects in the recently released 2015 Strategic Top 100 Global Infrastructure Report, issued by CG-LA Infrastructure. These are not selected by size, complexity or spending, though most of them are big. The focus is on the relationship between governments, private investors and the public. Infrastructure is the internal framework for a country, allowing its economy and citizens to be productive and healthy. Infrastructure is a catalyst for progress and the compilers of this report believe that the right policies and projects create important opportunities for all.
The three major criteria for project selection are that it needs to be well on the way through the approvals process, be a clear priority for a country’s growth prospects and reinforce a country’s clear, long-term vision. This vision must define how the infrastructure investment will create well-being by growing the economy or improving public health or overall commutes.
It’s not hard to see why the Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT) made the list this year. Like Crossrail, the other network currently moleing its way beneath the city, it will massively improve Londoners’ lives. By 2031, 8.6 million people will live in London. An estimated 600,000 new homes will be needed to absorb the growth. The sewerage network, already under severe pressure, needs an upgrade. That’s an important part of the vision.
The project will improve the public health, reputation and economy of London; not to mention the thousands of skilled jobs and hundreds of apprenticeships it will create.
The TTT is very much a project with legs: three joint ventures have been selected as preferred bidders for the east, central and west contracts. BMB JV, a joint venture of BAM Nuttall Ltd., Morgan Sindall PLC and Balfour Beatty Group Ltd. has been named for the west contract; FLO JV brings together Ferrovial Agroman UK Ltd. and Laing O’Rourke Construction for the central contract; and CVB JV, made up of Costain, Vinci Construction and Grands Projects Bachy Soletanche, has the east contract.
The engineering marvel that is the TTT is 25 kilometres long, descends 30 metres at its western end and 66 metres at its eastern and is over seven metres in diameter. The TTT will be the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the UK water industry. It will follow the route of the River Thames connecting to the combined sewer overflows located along the riverbanks. En route, it will travel underneath all other London infrastructure and through a variety of different ground environments.
It will be dug out by German-made, underground-conditioned, tunnel boring machines (TBMs). These extrude the excavated material, which is removed with a conveyor belt or, in wetter places, a slurry pipeline. As excavation advances, the tunnel is encased in a concrete shell using precast segments. The TBMs are introduced through a vertical shaft. Later, the existing overflow shafts will be connected to the great tunnel, ensuring that the sewage is no longer able to pollute the Thames.
The situation is worse now than before Sir Joseph Bazalgette constructed the interceptor sewers in the 1850s. These are still the backbone of London’s sewerage system. During severe storms, Bazalgette’s system was designed to overflow through discharge points on the riverbanks into the River Thames, rather than flooding streets and homes. When designed, this happened once or twice a year. Today it happens weekly, on average.
During its construction, between 2016 and 2023, the project will employ upward of 9,000 people at peak times. Given the continued national predominance of men over women in construction jobs, TTT’s CEO Andy Mitchell has set an interesting goal: achieve gender parity by 2023. While admitting that as a white, middle-aged male he is part of the problem, Mitchell exhibits an enlightened attitude towards the issue.
“This is not really a man’s world—we need women and we need diversity,” he says. “It’s a fact that a diverse workforce is a more productive one. If we are to deliver infrastructure that is of most use to society, we are more likely to achieve that with a team that is representative of that society.”
It will be an uphill task. Over a six-month period at the start of 2014, only 21 percent of job applicants were female.
“At the peak of construction, we’ll be creating more than 4,000 direct jobs and another 5,000 indirect. We need to make sure that when we advertise those roles we’re getting a far better rate of female applicants than we are now,” Mitchell admits. “Gender parity is a bold statement, and maybe it is too ambitious, but I don’t see the point in striving for anything less. If we achieve this goal, I believe it will change the face of construction for future generations.”
This policy may have been the deciding factor in securing the TTT a place in the Strategic Top 100.
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.