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.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.