Tideway super sewer arrives at Tower Bridge ready to bore east London

Selina being lowered under Thames riverbed to drive eastward

Giant boring machine Selina being lowered under Thames riverbed ready to drive eastward - Credit: Tideway

The once-controversial "super sewer" tunnel boring is finally heading into east London after burrowing its way under the Thames riverbed for the past two years. 

A giant boring machine driving eastward along the 18-mile route from Battersea has now reached under the Pool of London at Tower Bridge.

Giant tunnel boring machine ready to cut its way to east London under the Thames riverbed

Selina, the giant tunnel boring machine, which will cut its way to east London under the Thames riverbed - Credit: Tideway

A second machine is taking over and is soon to pass Wapping, with its history of opposition to the project when it was first announced in 2014. It will then pass Limehouse and through the Isle of Dogs to link up with the Northern Outfall sewer at Three Mills down to Beckton. 

The contractors had a visit this week from rapper Professor Green, an underground breakthrough artist who was meeting other kinds of breakthrough “performers”, giant machines known as Ursula and Selina which are driving the super sewer eastwards.  

Professor Green... "Supper sewer is heading to my neck of the woods."

Professor Green says the super sewer is heading to his neck of the woods in east London. - Credit: Jeff Spicer/ PA Wire

Professor Green was given the virtual tour to raise public awareness about the “positive environmental impact” of the project by Tideway contractors. 

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“I’ve worked with some underground artists in my time, but none as big as this,” he quipped. "But we’ll all reap huge benefits from a cleaner Thames.” 

One of the giant machines, Ursula, has been tunnelling from Battersea for the past two years and has now broken through to Bermondsey. Selina picks up the baton from here to start the final stage of tunnelling eastwards.

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"That's through my neck of the woods in east London,” Professor Green pointed out.

Looking down shaft to machine ready for last stage of super sewer to east London.

Light at the end of the tunnel... looking down shaft to machine ready for last stage of the super sewer to east London. - Credit: Tideway

Selina is the last tunnel boring machine to start work, digging its way through the deepest level at 180ft under the riverbed, moving towards Limehouse.  

London currently relies on a 150-year-old sewer network which was laid out by the Victorian master engineer of his day, Joseph Bazalgette. But the population has doubled since then, which has led to millions of tonnes of raw sewage spilling into the Thames when drains overflow, equal to eight billion toilet flushes a year. 

Selina is named after Dr Selina Fox, who founded the Bermondsey Medical Mission in 1904, while Ursula is named after Dr Audrey "Ursula" Smith, a British cryobiologist who discovered how glycerol can protect human red blood cells during freezing. 

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