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Celebrating 70 years of working with water

70 years of modelling the tidal Thames

Posted: 09-Mar-2017

We have been modelling the Tidal Thames since the company's early days, and the Thames remains an important focus of our work. 

One of our longest running studies has been on the Thames Barrier. Following the East Coast Floods of 1953, often described as the worst national peacetime disaster to hit the UK, survey teams were sent to inspect the damage on the East Coast, and a small model of the Thames was used for a preliminary study of flood protection in London and on the estuary. The effect of a surge-reducing barrage was tested on behalf of the Waverley Committee, and this model became the forerunner of a larger model built to study the same problem years later. Starting in 1968, the Hydraulics Research Station was commissioned to undertake studies to predict how the construction and operation of a barrier at different sites would affect river levels, tidal currents and siltation in the Thames. Many other computer, physical modelling, monitoring and laboratory studies were carried out to refine the barrier plan in the 1970s leading to the Thames Barrier becoming operational in 1984.

Today, HR Wallingford is again supporting the largest infrastructure project on the tidal River Thames; the development of the Thames Tideway Tunnel (also known as the Supersewer), a major new sewer urgently needed to reduce the impacts of overflows from London’s sewers into the tidal River Thames. The company's scientists been helping the project team understand the effects the potential construction work and the completed project could have on the river’s hydrodynamic, sediment and morphological regimes, using a comprehensive programme of fluvial numerical and physical modelling and assessment.

The main Thames projects we have worked on are shown below.

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