London’s underground heat

It’s been a hot few weeks here in London. Above-ground, things have been made worse by the heat island effect: all the reflective hard surfaces and heat from cars and air conditioners, which mean that temperatures in the city centre can be up to 10C warmer than in the countryside. Things have been pretty steamy underground,(…)

Time to talk about the Thames Tideway tunnel

The Thames Tideway tunnel – also known as the ‘super sewer’ – will be the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the UK water industry. I first heard about it in 2003. I had recently joined the legal team at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and was about to take on(…)

Crossrail: adventures in waste

There’s so much of wonder about Crossrail, the new railway under London that will link Reading and Heathrow with Shenfield and Abbey Wood when it opens in 2019. First off, there’s the staggeringly ambitious engineering work to construct 42km of tunnels through the centre of a city already riddled with holes from the tube network.The real joy for(…)

Railways under London

I’ve often wondered how London’s deep tunnels were built in the years between Marc Brunel’s early nineteenth century heroics and today’s monster tunnel boring machines (see Into the void). At what point did men wielding picks disappear from the front line? Not before 1948 it seems, according to Marie Neurath, author and illustrator of the post-war(…)

Hey Sewer Abusers!

This ‘plop video’ speaks for itself. Sewerman Style. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejBMF2Ka6mA&list=UUcAJrq05RcIOtWrPnDoQGVw&index=3

Cryptic connection

Here is another Thames Tunnel picture found in Greenwich Market from another, equally strange perspective (see Underground, Overground peculiar cross section). This plan illustrates nicely the dot-to-dottiness of our chimneys and tunnels walk. The two dots here mark the grand entrance hall and stairwell either side of the river. I like to think of them(…)

Underground, Overground

Passing through Greenwich Market the other day, I stumbled upon this nineteenth century print of Marc Brunel’s Thames Tunnel (Into the Void). It shows, in charmingly peculiar perspective, the tunnel ‘as it appeared when originally opened for traffic’: a popular destination for well-to-do Victorian pedestrians. That was before it became a dark, dank den of(…)

Into the void

Crossrail’s Phyllis & Ada (London’s most voracious worms) are the latest in a long line of giant worms that have nibbled their way under the city. The family tree (or should that be root?) goes back at least as far as 1825 to the tunnelling shield used to bore the Thames Tunnel between Rotherhithe and(…)

London’s most voracious worms

I’m very excited about Crossrail. The tunnelling started last week. Over the next two years Phyllis & Ada (pictured), Victoria & Elizabeth, Sophia & Mary and an unnamed couple will bore 21km of twin tunnels through the centre of London. The 148m long machines will pass below Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Whitechapel(…)