The Environment Agency has produced a graphic map showing the impact of flooding on London if the Thames Barrier were to fail or not be upgraded in the future. The view from the hills of Greenwich and Charlton would be of a vast area of London transformed into a tidal lake. Canary Wharf and the City of London would be under water.
Nearly 2 million people would be affected. Transport, business, food distribution, schools, and hospitals would cease functioning.
The Environment Agency plans to reduce staffing levels at the Thames Barrier to one staff member per shift on nights and weekends. That invites the flooding of London should a member of staff be taken ill, a ship collide with the Barrier or a terrorist incident occur, or unprecedented spring or winter tides swamp the defences.
The Romans used slave labour to build the first flood defences on the Thames. The Environment Agency wants to abolish labour on the 21st-century flood defences. Pressure from Unison members at the Barrier is now seeing the employer enter meaningful negotiations over staffing levels. ■