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The Thames Barrier - from birth to robust middle age

Event organised by Ingenieurs et Scientifique de France

23 June 2021

This event has now ended


Dr Graham Owens will talk about The Thames Barrier, this vitally important infrastructure asset that has kept London safe from flooding for some 37 years, and about how that protection needs to be enhanced or replaced in light of rising sea levels.

The need for a barrier to protect London was identified by the severe flooding of the East Coast in 1953.

The Thames was still used for substantial commercial traffic, and the Port of London set onerous conditions for prevention of flooding. Conventional solutions for moveable barriers were not able to meet these requirements so it was not until an innovative solution was conceived around 1970 that detailed design and procurement could commence.

Because of their strategic importance, the moveable rising sector gates were subject to particular scrutiny including testing to destruction of a one sixth scale model at Imperial College in 1973. The need for this investigation was fuelled by contemporary concerns about design rules for plated steel structures, with major bridge collapses in Wales, Germany and Australia. Procurement and construction also presented major challenges and the Barrier was finally commissioned by 1984.

Rising sea levels and long-term post glacial settlement mean that the flooding risk continues to increase. The Environment Agency is already considering the next solution, which will probably need to be in commission by 2070.

For more information please contact:

Shelly-Ann Russell