The huge sewer due to be built underneath the Thames next year has been described as a “real disaster” by a former head of Ofwat, the government's water regulation authority.
Sir Ian Byatt said the Thames Tideway Scheme, also known as the London super-sewer, is unnecessary and a huge waste of taxpayer money.
“My big objection is it's not necessary, And whatever the final cost to consumers, it is unbearably large. If you're thinking about improving people's standard of living, this isn't the way to do it,” he told the FT.
He also said that since the project is a specified government project, it should not be paid for using extra taxes on Londoners:
It should be financed directly by government borrowing, which would be much cheaper than special project finance.
The government approved plans to build the 25km-long tunnel last year, saying the capital needed it in order to meet EU regulations for sewage disposal, and that without it it would be slapped with an annual fine of £100m.
The sewer will take an estimated eight years to build, and once finished it will span from Acton in west London to Abbey Mills in the East, travelling under much of central London as it goes.
But the project is going to cost taxpayers an estimated £4.2bn to complete, with costs steadily increasing and payment being made in the form of increased water bills.
A Final contract is due to be signed in the next few weeks, and critics are not happy about it – for years they have considered it an ineffective use of money and argued that alternative solutions to meeting EU regulations have not been looked into in enough detail.
Back in 2006, Philip Fletcher, another former head of Ofwat, told the government there was “scope for improvement options that offer better value for money”.
A spokesperson for Ofwat said that it was the government's decision whether to go ahead with the sewer, although the regulatory body has expressed concerns about the project in the past: “Our job is to make sure costs are kept down to protect customers.”