Monday 15 September 2014

Sewage, Garbage & Keynes

The long-awaited but much contested London 'super-sewer' has been approved by Eric Pickles, to no-one's great surprise.  Thames Water, of course, are telling stories of how much cleaner the river will be when the 'Thames Tideway Tunnel' provides the capacity required to properly handle the extra volumes of water from severe rainstorms.

In recent months I have been told, seperately by a civil engineer and a financier, that this is so much garbage.  (Incidentally, it's fairly clear that both their private vested interests are best served by the project going ahead - indeed, by any massive project going ahead.)  The reason is that, thanks to new planning & building standards as part of a very successful programme called SuDs - Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems - the overload on the existing system at times of sudden downpours has been reducing steadily, and will reduce further as more and more developments are made using these techniques.  The spec for the super-sewer was drawn up before SuDS really started in earnest: comparable to investing in a scheme for disposing of the 'ever-increasing' amounts of horse manure produced by all those horse-drawn vehicles on the streets of London Town.

No light at the end
But let's not get hung up on the facts.  We've commented here before that the UK's substantial civil engineering industry is heavily dependent on a rolling rogramme of public giga-projects: Channel Tunnel, Jubilee Line, London Ring Main, T5, Olympics, Crossrail, HS2 etc etc. In other words Keynes, as ever, still rules.  We may be fairly sure a large part of the insouciance with which Whitehall as a whole accommodates the nonsense of windfarms is all part of the same unstated policy.  And of course windfarms are even better than digging holes & filling them back in, because they cause systemic problems that trigger the next round of projects!  Just a shame (I hear you chorus) that such a large proportion of the money is spent with foreign firms ...
And all with almost-guaranteed rates of return: and (mostly) paid for by consumers on their bills - what's not to like ?  The likes of National Grid and Thames Water couldn't survive without this ceaseless round of 'activity'.   

Light at the end of the tunnels ?  There is no end.



CityUnslicker said...

ooopps, double post!

And I disagree anyway, the major swere is needed the small fixes are doign well but not when London's population is due to increase by 50% in 30 years.

Hate the fact they lay it on the consumers though, typical corporate capture as you say!

DJK said...

I'd just note that all seven items on your list (Channel Tunnel, Jubilee Line, London Ring Main, T5, Olympics, Crossrail, HS2) are either in London or go to London.

And people wonder why the 50+ million people who don't live in London feel unloved by the govt?

London has plenty of transport infrastructure (not the same as saying more isn't needed.) But the only other British city with a proper tube line is Glasgow, and its was built in the 1870s.

Graeme said...

are you sure that SUDS will stop the periodic closures of Victoria, caused by excess rain water? It would be good to be certain before you write off the super sewer entirely on the say-so of 2 people.

Nick Drew said...

CU, Graeme - fair cop: not my special subject at all

so, just two reported conversations, FWIIW

what i do know from long experience of National Grid is that they are so conflicted (those guaranteed rates of return), you can't ever take their utterances at face value

and yet - the perennial trap - who else ever provides 'the data' ? which 'expert' ever has an iterest in saying "let's not build more stuff" ?

any reason why Thames water would be any different ?

DJK - can't be denied ... (though I am sure I have majored on the ones I see under my feet - someone could no doubt even the list up a bit)

Anonymous said...

I'd rather spend money on something which may turn out to be useful if we get more storms/sea level rising etc than bailing out banks/bankers bonuses etc. In some ways its surprising TPTB are building a sewer project; something not immediately visible or high profile instead of a vanity project.

As an aside I love the TV progs about working down the sewers getting rid of "fatbergs" etc. Funny I've never seen a woman in any of those progs; the last male preserve perhaps in terms of employment?

Kynon said...

The place where I live has some new-build developments on hills surrounding the historic town. These developments have been provided with SDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems) - apparently the term "SUDS" is outdated now - and in several separate incidences of heavy rainfall (all bar one were nothing extraordinary), the SDS failed - it overfilled, flooded the area around it, and because it overtopped all the water spilled into the downstream watercourses. In one of these instances, the town flooded (not as severely as the floods seen in deepest Englandshire, but bad enough that some people were out of their homes for a year). It is quite likely that the reason for the failure is lack of maintenance - the developer sloped that responsibility off, the council don't want/don't know how, the property owners aren't responsible, and the water authority don't want/don't know how - so no-one maintains these things.

Anecdotal evidence, but I would strongly advise some further reading before proclaiming S(u)DS as a cure-all for flooding...

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