in the back
Shit happens
London supersewer, Issue 1560
thames.jpg WHAT news of London's new "supersewer", aka the Thames Tideway Tunnel? This 15-mile bore – wide enough for three London buses – will take shedloads of shit to the Beckton sewage treatment works in east London, but its original cost estimate of £1.7bn is currently up at £4.2bn – and while in 2014 the Eye predicted it would reach £4.8bn, it's still early days.

With heavy rainfall often overpowering the Victorian sewage system, in 2014 we reported how Thames Water had no option but to periodically open the valves and let tonnes of poo disgorge into the Thames, thereby incurring fines from the European Court of Justice (Eyes 1359 & 1360).

Research by engineering companies excited at the prospect of such a big project focused on one juicy big solution to the virtual exclusion of smaller, cheaper interventions – such as the "sustainable drainage systems" (SUDs) used by other cities (porous asphalt, permeable car parks, low maintenance planting, etc) to slow the effects of heavy sudden rainfalls.

Money tap
Faced with the cost of this massive scheme, Thames Water found it had coughed up so much in dividends to shareholders (£3.6bn between 2000, when the tunnel was first mooted, and 2014) and salaries to its executives that there was nothing in the till. Clever Cayman Island financing also meant it paid virtually no corporation tax. Nevertheless, the scheme was signed off by the then minister and now discredited climate change denier Owen Paterson.

The money taps were turned on again by a special purpose investment vehicle, Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd, which was set up by Thames Water in 2015. Named after Victorian sewerage pioneer Sir Jospeh Bazalgette, it is financed by a number of institutional investors, with the government as guarantor of last resort. Completion date has slipped from 2023 to 2025. Customers, meanwhile, pay an additional £25 a year on top of their usual water bills. Dividends for Thames Water shareholders have dried up, but it has still had to pay out millions to service its debts.

The turd way
As sudden monsoon-like downpours become more common, the shit still overflows into the river but at least now we don't need to worry about the European Court of Justice fining us. Once the sewer is complete, it is predicted to dispose of up to 39m tonnes of shitty rainwater annually discharged into the river at times of heavy downpour – but that leaves a predicted 2.5m tonnes to swish into the river, as Thames Water's chief exec Sarah Bentley recently told MPs. Treble tampons and turds all round!

More top stories in the latest issue:

The Conservatives have inserted a get-out clause in biodiversity legislation, in order to let landowners burn heather on crucial peat-based hillsides.

Lawyers have been given the green light to challenge the transfer of one of the UK's biggest GP networks to a controversial US health insurance giant.

Lawyers representing bereaved families have told the Grenfell Tower inquiry that successive governments abdicated their general duties "to protect life".

The Fire Brigades Union spent £3,000 on a high-end exercise bike for the use of a senior official, on the orders of the general secretary.

Evidence for a "market investigation" on the replacement emergency services communication system shows the Home Office and a supplier have fallen out.

The media leapt on the recent "hijacking" of scallop trawler Cornelis-Gert Jan by the French – but just how British is the trawler?

The conviction of the businessman who arranged the flight that killed footballer Emiliano Sala closes only one disturbing chapter in this murky saga.

A Scottish government report confirms that Scotland's wild salmon is being adversely affected by inter-breeding with their farmed salmon cousins.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1560 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 8th December 2021
Private Eye Issue 1560
In This Issue
Johnson hails climate summit victory as temperature cools dramatically on his return to Commons… Tory MPs finally agree to wear masks so public won't recognise them after Owen Paterson vote… Britain's rivers express concern that 'Westminster is like an open sewer'… COP26 praised for record recycling of empty promises made at previous Paris summit… Why I have stopped supporting Peter Hitchens – Her Majesty the Queen speaks out… Mark Zuckerberg announces invention of Metaverse so humans can spend more time on internet… Holly Willoughby's Life Lessons, as told to Craig Brown

Parliament of howls
A brief history of shamelessness

Good Cop, bad Cop
Old Sparky on reasons to cheer (and jeer)

Profits of Doom
The profiteers who cashed in on Covid

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8th December 2021
Private Eye Issue 1559