Thames Tunnel plan 'should be reviewed'
Plans to build a so-called "super sewer" in London should be reviewed, an inquiry has concluded.
Thames Water said the sewer would stop millions of tonnes of sewage leaking into the River Thames every year.
But the Thames Tunnel Commission favours a shorter tunnel with "greener" options for preventing rain water entering the sewage system
Thames Water said it would study the findings of the commission which was sponsored by five London councils.
The inquiry was commissioned amid concerns that water bills would have to rise to finance the project and fears over the loss of green space and regeneration sites.
The Thames Tunnel Commission (TTC) examined whether the 20-mile (32km) tunnel from west to east London was the best solution to the problem of raw sewage entering the Thames.
Lord Selborne, who led the team that scrutinised the plans, said: "Our forensic analysis shows there is a substantial body of evidence pointing to the fact that there is a smarter way to make the River Thames cleaner.
"A shorter tunnel, combined with green infrastructure solutions that are built up incrementally in the medium to long term, would be both compliant with EU directives and less costly and disruptive to Londoners.
"These alternatives require further study."
The report recommended the primary reason for rejecting a short tunnel that costs less than half the current "super sewer" estimate "should be revisited as a matter of urgency".
It also found complimentary environmentally friendly solutions that minimise the amount of fresh rain water entering the sewerage system should be considered.
A Thames Water spokesman said: "To be a viable proposition, any alternative to the Thames Tunnel would need to provide a more economical way of meeting the environmental objectives set by the Environment Agency for the health of the river, within the time scale required by the government."
He said it would be a "valuable contribution" to a second consultation into the scheme which starts on Friday.
At the same time as the report was being published, Thames Tunnel Now, a coalition of 15 environmental charities, including the Angling Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, WWF-UK, and the London Wildlife Trust, said it backed the sewer plan.
A spokesman for the coalition said: "It is completely unacceptable for people to be faced with raw sewage in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and for tens of thousands of fish to die from suffocation every time it rains heavily in the summer."