The problems with London's 'HS2 for poo'
Thames Tideway is sorely needed, but also delayed and over budget
Morning – here’s what we’ve spied in the capital on Tuesday, February 28, 2023:
💩 Everyone can tell the Thames is pretty gross. But the reason behind its brown tinge is almost too obvious: London’s Victorian sewers are regularly leaking raw sewage into it. In fact last year, data shows a pipe discharged untreated sewage from toilets across the capital into the river an average of three times every day.
A £4bn effort is underway to change that. The plan is to build a 25km ‘super sewer’ under the Thames, designed to capture any overflowing poo before it leaks into the river. The catch is things have not exactly gone to plan with Thames Tideway.
Construction started beneath the city in 2016, and this week Londoners were offered a rare glimpse inside via Sky’s ‘Climate Show’. The programme captures footage inside a new cavernous hole that has been dug beneath London, 60 metres deep and 18 across. The shaft, we are told, will soon be transformed into an enormous underground sewage storage tank.
The cost of the project is being paid mostly by Londoners, with each household facing an extra £18 on their water bills each year. But not everyone is happy with how this cash is being spent. The executive behind the project, Andy Mitchell, was reportedly paid almost £1m last year, prompting frustration from inequality campaigners.
What’s more, the project is facing delays and has blown its budget. The sewer was originally due for completion in 2024, but this has now been pushed back to 2025. Meanwhile, costs are also expected to overun by £233m.
For all the problems, the mega project is sorely needed. The current patchwork of ageing Victorian sewers has been pushed to breaking point by London’s modern population.
⚠️ A pregnancy advice centre in north-west London has been misleading women about abortion, a BBC investigation has found. An undercover reporter was told that depression, infertility and even death were all potential side effects by a counsellor at Crossroads Crisis Pregnancy Centre, which is based in a Baptist church. The revelation is part of a wider investigation into crisis pregnancy advice centres that operate outside of the NHS.
🚉 The £700m upgrade to Bank station opened on Monday after seven years of construction. Bank was perhaps London’s most labyrinthine station, but it now has a new entrance on Cannon Street with six more escalators linked to the Northern line that promise to cut down on using all those long, winding corridors. Meanwhile TfL is moving forward with plans to open a new DLR station between Canning Town and West Silvertown.
🏙️ Shenanigans at City Hall on Thursday as Sadiq Khan passed his budget for the next financial year. Khan’s plans for free school meals for all primary school children as well as a 10 per cent rise in the mayor’s share of council tax were among the measures approved. Two eye-catching proposals from opposition politicians were rejected though: a plan for 70 new public toilets at Tube and bus stations, as well as a doubling in the financial support Khan is offering to help people replace their cars for ULEZ.
🤖 More artificial intelligence is being used in CCTV across London – this time by Westminster council to tackle fly-tipping. The borough is running a trial where it’ll use AI in three hotspots to recognise suspected cases of fly-tipping and record the registration plates of offending vehicles. There's no facial recognition capabilities though – unlike the cameras that were removed from King’s Cross in 2019 after backlash.
🚑 Only half the recommended number of medical staff were on duty at the O2 Brixton Academy on the night of a crush at the south-west London venue, according to whistleblowers. Two insiders have told File on 4 that medical cover at the venue was inadequate on the night of the tragedy in December, which saw two people lose their lives.
😡 The far-right found themselves outnumbered when they attempted to protest outside a drag queen storytelling event in south London on Saturday. Members of right-wing group Turning Point gathered outside Honor Oak pub to oppose a drag story hour for children, but even more people turned out in support of the event. Five people were arrested – three for affray, one for a public order offence and one for assault on an emergency worker and possession of an offensive weapon.
Thanks for reading London Spy! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.