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Episode 3

Following workers across London over three years as they race to build an enormous supersewer on time and on budget. In this episode, tunnelling in central London finally begins.

London's Victorian sewer network is at bursting point, and now a huge engineering project is underway to massively expand the capital's capacity to deal with its own waste. In this three-part series, cameras are at the heart of the action, following workers across the capital for three years as they race to build the enormous tunnel on time and on budget.

In this third and final episode of the series, tunnelling in central London finally begins. To complete the 16-mile main section of the super sewer, four bespoke tunnelling machines have been designed and work is underway to prepare for their launch.

In Battersea, one of the strategically most important sites on the project, the team must assemble the £15m tunnel boring machines on site. The 100-metre-long, 9-metre-diameter machines have been stripped down into component parts and sent from the manufacturer in France. Now the team has just three months to put together the 900-tonne jigsaws, before lowering them 60 metres into the ground, to begin tunnelling in earnest.

Ahead of the machines setting off, the opening section of the tunnel in Battersea has to be burrowed by excavators and reinforced with spray concrete lining to prevent it collapsing. The team are on a tight two-month schedule, but when their tunnellers hit the 52-million-year-old compressed rock of the Upper Shelley Beds, progress is in peril.

On the Thames, there is a much-needed boost for the tug and barge industry, as super sewer project managers commit to moving 90 per cent of waste material from the tunnels by river - and that means opportunities for ambitious crew who are looking to make a step up.

But the mammoth engineering effort of the super sewer team isn't good news for everyone on the Thames. Bright yellow amphibious Duck Tours vehicles that take tourists through the city centre are forced off the river, as engineers need to take over the river bank they use to launch.

59 minutes

Last on

Sun 10 Feb 2019 19:00

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Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:02

    Elton John


  • 00:36




Role Contributor
Series Producer Tom Swingler
Director Adam Hopkins
Executive Producer Tom Barry
Executive Producer Tim Wardle
Production Manager Clara Thomas
Producer Carla Grande
Production Company Raw TV


  • Tue 31 Jul 2018 21:00
  • Tue 31 Jul 2018 23:15
  • Mon 6 Aug 2018 23:15
  • Thu 16 Aug 2018 01:15
  • Sun 10 Feb 2019 19:00

Discover more about the history of the London sewers and urban infrastructures

Discover more about the history of the London sewers and urban infrastructures

Discover more about infrastructures and the history of the Bazalgette sewers with The OU.