Tunnel under the Thames at Battersea

Yesterday, I wandered over to Battersea Power Station for a viewing of the exhibition for the latest (of many) plans to redevelop the huge industrial wasteland – and because we could also then go on a tour of the building itself.

The exhibition is quite good, goes into a lot of detail – although there is tons upon tons of hype about the eco-friendliness of proposals, almost as if they are the sole issue at stake here. There is also one of my favourites – a huge scale model of the site.

Most interesting to me was the map of the transport plans – as they expect to extend the Northern Line from Kennington to the development.

Once you fill in a questionnaire about the plans and sign a disclaimer – you can then go on a visit to the iconic building. Alas, the “tour” is basically a walk around the outside with a couple of spots where you can get up close to the entrances. It’s close enough to get a good view of the derelict interior, and includes going round to the riverside frontage, which I have not been to before.

You are warned that it is a very long walk – although I guess it says something about the fitness of the average Brit if half a mile is deemed worthy of a warning notice.

However, as I had been right inside the whole building once before, to be denied that this time was a bit disappointing – but if you have never been near the power station, then this really is a good chance to go. The exhibition closes this weekend though – so you need to be sharpish.


One of the leaflets they handed out mentioned that surplus heat from the power station was pumped under the Thames to a housing estate on the North side – and it got me thinking as such hot water pipes would have to be lain in a tunnel for maintenance and insulation. Ergo – there is a tunnel under the Thames at this point!

I have been digging and found out that indeed the tunnel still exists – is quite large at 10ft internal diameter (Greenwich foot tunnel is 9ft diameter) and still reasonably structurally safe. After inflicting some damage to my credit card to buy some technical documents – I have a fair bit of info about the construction of the tunnel, which doubled up as the electricity conduit to the North of the river as well. Indeed, that seems to have been its primary function on some structural drawings I have – and the surplus heat discharge was an afterthought.

I have found a few contact details of a firm which did some work in the tunnels a few years ago, along obviously with the new owners and shall do some letter writing and beg for a chance to have a look :)

There is also another tunnel running south from the power station – reported to be 7ftx7ft square – and that was for the electricity cables. There was a cut/cover trench within the grounds, and then through an 8-foot 3-inch diameter subway, 460 feet long, in Kirtling Street.

Finally, two more tunnels run from the Power Station to the riverside and is marked on some drawings as an “intake/outlet culvert”, which is for cooling waters. Under the power station for the river water intake was also a vast 140ft long suction chamber, which could be quite impressive to see.

Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

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3 comments on “Tunnel under the Thames at Battersea
  1. Jane says:

    Hi Ian. Just to let you know I was at the Exhibition at the Power Station yesterday and was told that, because of its popularity, they are extending it. It will now be open two further Saturdays after this – 12th and 19th.

  2. Tunnel Rat says:

    There are three tunnels that leave the power station and run north of the river.
    You are correct that one tunnel houses the district heating pipes to feed a housing estate and two further tunnels that are conduits for high voltage power cables.

  3. mick says:

    there,are actually 4,about a hundred meters right to the power station a water company tunnel does not cross the river,built 2006 approx but joins in to one of the existing tunnels,know this cause i helped build it

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