The British Tunnelling Society’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Underground Space was re-convened last night under the UK’s new coalition government, following its successful last minute bid to get written support from 20 Members of Parliament and Peers.
At the end of last week the future of the group was in the balance with just 12 MPs and Peers registering their support, but hefty government barracking by group leader Helen Nattrass, Chairman, The Rt Hon Nick Raynsford, and other member of the BTS, pulled in the remaining eight Parliamentary supporters with hours to spare.
APGUS needs to be re-established after every General Election, like every All Party Group. The meeting to re-establish the group has to take place within three months of the General Election. To establish an All Party Group in the UK, you need the support of 20 Parliamentarians; 10 Parliamentarians (MPs or Peers) from the Government Party (i.e. Conservative or Lib Dem) and 10 other Parliamentarians (MPs or Peers) from the Opposition and other parties.
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The rules require an Annual General Meeting every year and that at least two events have to be held every year, attended by a minimum of three Parliamentarians.
Last night’s first meeting under the new government kicked off in the Grand Committee Room at the Palace of Westminster with The Rt Hon Nick Raynsford once again agreeing to Chair the group, with Lord Methuen and Stephen Pound as Vice Chairmen and Lord Haworth as Secretary. The group was set up in 2002 by Helen Nattrass and Peter South, and supported by the BTS, to give the UK tunnelling industry access to Parliament, and a voice among top flight governmental decision makers.
ITA immediate past President, Martin Knights addressed last night’s meeting with an overview of the international tunnelling industry, before Phil Stride, Thames Water’s Head of London Tideway Tunnels gave a presentation on the proposed US$915M, 32km long, 7.2m diameter Thames Tunnel, designed to alleviate severe pollution of the River Thames by intercepting 34 of the route’s most polluting combined sewer overflows. The tunnel alignment roughly follows the path of the River Thames, where each year an average 39 million cubic meters of sewage is discharged when the Bazalgette network reaches capacity.
The 12-week public consultation programme for the project is due to begin on the 8th September, ahead of planning application submission in 2012. Three routes are under consideration, the Thames route, the Rotherhithe Route and the Abbey Mills route. The Abbey Mills route seems favorable as it takes some 9km off the tunnel length, and minimizes boring through the troublesome chalks at depths of approximately 75m. The route must be finalized by the middle of 2011 when the project enters the second round of public consultation
Construction will be by TBM, with the amount and type of machine bound by both the geology and the required finish date of 2020. Spoil disposal will be handled as much as possible, and is financially viable, by barge along the river.
Stride said fears that both Crossrail and the Thames Tunnel would put enormous strains on the UKs tunnelling resources had been considered and that actual tunnelling work on the Thames Tunnel wouldn’t start until 2014-15, when tunnelling on Crossrail would be on the slow down.
Following the meeting a healthy gathering re-convened at the Red Lion Pub for lots of free beer and sandwiches and further discussion.