Keeping London at the forefront of global business
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London Infrastructure Summit - Working together to make a difference
17 August 2021
I firmly believe that collaboration and engagement are the keys to success in any customer focused business. I’m passionate about listening to what our customers, stakeholders and colleagues are telling us and making sure we act upon this.
If utilities are going to successfully navigate the challenges of operating in the capital, and at the same time improve outcomes for customers, then collaboration isn’t an option – it’s essential. We must work together with our partners, key organisations in our areas, and beyond to make sure our customers, communities and the environment thrive.
Recently, we’ve seen the devastating results of climate change with extreme rainfalls hitting parts of London on several occasions over a very short period. Many Londoners have been affected by surface water flooding and seeing the impact is truly heart-breaking. Given all the parties involved in managing flood risk, including the lead local flood authorities, Environment Agency, Highways Agency, water companies and others, this has reinforced the importance of working closely together. We must do this to make positive differences for the future, including building resilience.
There are also wider benefits to collaboration. We can collectively support community programmes, like our recent partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to enable us to Grow Back Greener. This not only supports local communities to have access to a green space within 10 minutes of their homes, which is great for wellbeing, but also encourages sustainable urban drainage, with planting beds and green areas absorbing some of the rainfall we experience. This greatly reduces flooding risk, which can be worsened by hard surfaces such as paving, where the water has nowhere to go.
We can also find innovative ways to reduce cost and disruption for our customers. An example of this is the work we’re currently doing in Gipsy Hill – between Lambeth and Croydon in London. Here both Thames and SGN needed to carry out work which would result in full road closures. Instead of disrupting customers twice, we used the Thames Connect scheme and our interactions with the GLA to identify an opportunity to change how we did things, so we could work in tandem and only close the road once for both activities. There are some great opportunities out there, ready to be embraced.
At Thames Water, we have unique challenges with our infrastructure. Our average mains age is 71, rising to 83 in London. By 2030 an additional 1,500km of our network will be over 150 years old, including a further 179km of trunk mains. We are fortunate that the Victorians did an incredible job putting in place our networks, but sadly these are ageing rapidly and there are tipping points where large amounts need replacement at the same time.
We are open to innovation in delivery, financing, and regulation where it will help us to maintain the resilience of our services, improve sustainability, and keep bills affordable. One of the areas we’re focusing on is to replace sections of the water network in parts of London. We’re keen to explore new, yet proven, models of private sector investment in infrastructure to support our approach — such as the way we’ve managed the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
I’m excited about the future and committed to leaving a positive legacy for Londoners – just like the Victorians did for us. My great grandfather was a well-borer in London for one of the companies that formed the Metropolitan Water Board in the early 1900s and his son (my grandfather) was a fireman in London during the war – fully dependent on the water we provide. So, leaving a great legacy isn’t just something I’m passionate about – it’s in my DNA.
I’m very much looking forward to the London Infrastructure Summit and engaging on the opportunities we have. I know that by working together we’re going to make a huge difference.
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