Each year 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage overflows into the River Thames from London’s Victorian sewerage system. The Thames Tideway Tunnel is a major new sewer that will help tackle the problem of overflows and protect the River Thames from increasing pollution for at least the next 100 years.

The construction of the £4.2 billion tunnel is planned to begin in 2016 and will take seven years. It will have a diameter of 7.2 metres, broadly follow the River Thames for 25km and lie up to 70 metres below ground. This will make it the deepest and longest tunnel ever constructed in London.


A wide range of skills are needed

For the tunnel to be completed on time, construction work is set to take place at 24 preferred sites across the capital. This is expected to generate approximately 9,350 jobs at the peak of the work. This number includes 4,250 direct construction workers and a further 5,100 indirect jobs.

At the construction sites there will be a demand for a wide variety of skills, but in particular skilled construction workers and tunnel specialists. The type of companies, products and services that are likely to be most in demand include concrete, cement and aggregate suppliers, major plant suppliers, tunnelling equipment, penstock and flap valves, marine civils, steel structures, water and power supply, marine spoil logistics, construction design and management, and skilled labour.

Because of other major projects taking place at the same time, such as Crossrail, the Northern Line extension, High Speed Two rail route and National Grid upgrades, the demand for some occupations may outweigh supply. This includes skilled construction workers, miners/underground workers, steel fixers, construction project managers and construction designers. 

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Recruiting new blood for vital roles

To help cope with this potential shortfall and boost the overall number of skilled people entering the construction industry, a series of initiatives has been proposed. For example, all Thames Tideway Tunnel contractors will be required to employ at least one apprentice for every 50 of their site employees throughout their contracts. 

In addition, Thames Tideway Tunnel Ltd, major contractors, further education organisations, training organisers and fundraising agencies such as Construction Skills will work together as a Skills Planning Group. This committee will establish the future training needs of apprentices and other new entrants into the construction industry. It will also identify how employers can work with these people so they develop the right skills and experience.

For further information, visit the website of the Thames Tideway Tunnel