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The Future Of The Thames Barrier

January 15, 2004 1:26 PM

Flooding by the Thames has been substantially mitigated by the Thames Barrier, which can keep out storm surges in tidal waters and also accelerate the discharge of flood waters from upstream. But it was built to last 120 years to 2100 and there is growing evidence that climate change is quite rapidly undermining its design assumptions, making it unable to cope with major floods: that is one of the conclusions of the Flood Committee Report of the River Thames Society ( tel 01491 571476).

MP Vincent Cable said that: "thanks to the Thames Barrier flooding is not an issue we have had to worry much about locally below the Teddington lock and, even in the higher reaches, there has been limited flooding around Trowlock Island but otherwise the problems have been further upstream in places like Maidenhead. But as this study points out if climate change increases autumn and winter rainfall then the Barrier's design capacity will be insufficient and there will be more serious flooding. Although this is a long-term rather than an immediate threat, the government must start now looking at structures which will strengthen or even supersede the Barrier".