Sunday, 14 September 2014

Why Dorothy is such a fantastic bore

Dorothy is named after the wife of one of the directors of Murphy’s - the construction company.

"It’s just like naming a ship.” said my guide showing me round the Thames Water construction site. 

Apparently all boring machines have women’s names. The first two Crossrail machines were called Phyllis - after Phyllis Pearsall who created the London A-Z - and Ada after Ada Lovelace who was one of the first computer scientists. 

So…if you overhear a man in building worker’s gear saying to his mate on the bus ‘I’ve spent all day underground with Dorothy’ you’ll know there’s no hanky panky involved. 

Crane at Westbourne Green
135 ton crane at Westbourne Green
What is happening?
Murphy is one of the partners in the Optimise group working on a massive sewerage and drainage project in Queens Park, Kilburn and Maida Vale.

This will renew and update the water and drainage system designed and built 150 years ago.
My guide told me that one of the crane drivers is 67 years old and still going strong. "He's one of the best in the UK".

135 ton Crane
The crane's driving cab. 

The old Victorian system

Bazalgette Inspects construction
Bazalgette inspects construction
This was started in 1864 and designed by Joseph Bazalgette. It was made to cope with a London population of only 2 million. Fortunately for us Bazalgette had foresight and planned for the future. In his planning for the network, he took the highest population and came up with a diameter of pipe needed. He then said 'Well, we're only going to do this once and there's always the unforeseen' and doubled the diameter to be used.
If he had been made to use the smaller pipe diameter - as many cost-conscious critics wanted him to - the sewer would have overflowed in the 1960s, rather than coping until the present day as it has. Today the water network has to deal with a London population 4 times greater - the 8 million people who now live in London.

What are Thames Water up to?
"They cant be serious!"  said my neighbour the other day as we tried to cross the road dodging all the buses which now came round our corner. All traffic was redirected to avoid the road works.

Two campaigns

Tamplin Mews Gardens
Although I live in Maida Vale the first I heard about any of this was when I was handed a leaflet in my local pub. The leaflet encouraged me to join other “outraged” local residents protesting about Thames Water’s plans to dig up Tamplin Mews Gardens.

The leaflet said that the park would be taken away and children would no longer be able to play there. Later - in my local leisure centre someone told me that the gardens were going to be made into a huge cesspit and children would have to play next to it. How could they? I thought.

Maida Vale Flood Action
No one said anything about the flooded houses or why Thames Water would waste money on this kind of thing.
It’s a serious business especially if you live in one of the 350 households in the Maida Vale area which have had water contaminated by sewage flooding into their homes after heavy rain. 
Flooded house
Flooded house
It was only later that I found out that the works had been the result of another campaign started as early as 2009 by Maida Vale Flood action. Through thick and thin the leaders of the campaign had done their own research, lobbied councillors and MPs and had finally won the support of Thames Water. After lengthy debates and what seemed like endless consultations Thames Water’s £17.5 million project had been given the go ahead.
Chippenham Road works
Chippenham Road works
New sewers, tanks and pumping stations would be built – one of the tanks being able to hold the equivalent of more than two Olympic-sized swimming pools.  

Tank in Westbourne Gardens
Tank in Westbourne Gardens

The project was launched in June 2013 and should complete early in 2015. Following Bazalgette’s example these will be sewers and drainage systems for the future and this means householders will not have to dread a weather forecast of heavy rain.

So don’t be bored by campaigns that ask you to swing in with your support but haven’t asked any questions or done any proper research.

They might well represent the worst kind of campaign “Not in my back yard – only in someone else’s”.
You might be glad that Dorothy, Ada or Phyllis have come to bore in your town.

Related blog:
What lies beneath 17th July 2013

Joseph Bazalgette - Wikipedia
Bazalgette's capacity for hard work was remarkable; every connection to the sewerage system by the various Vestry Councils had to be checked and Bazalgette did this himself and the records contain thousands of linen tracings with handwritten comments in Indian ink on them "Approved JWB" "I do not like 6" used here and 9" should be used. JWB" and so on. It is perhaps not surprising that his health suffered as a result. The records are held by Thames Water in large blue binders gold-blocked reading "Metropolitan Board of Works" and then dated, usually two per year.