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What's with the water?

Author Message
Bt
Joined 27-07-2003
Posted on Thursday, 22 September, 2005 - 08:11 am:   

Yet again yesterday we had the water cut off from 11:30am to about 6:00pm. This is the third time in 7 days. It was off for over 8 hrs last Thursday evening 15th Sept. and all day Saturday 17th Sept. This is all after the major problems earlier in the year when it was off for several days.When are Thames Water going to get it sorted properly. The main problem seems to centre around the area opposite Hornimans Museum. Over the last 30 years I have lost count of the number of times they have dug up the road in that area. Surely the cost of repeated repairs must be now well in excess of replacing the Main properly. I reckon we have supply interruptions at least once every couple of months with no warnings or explanations, and to rub salt into the wound this latest problem coincided with the reminder that the second half of the Water Rate is now due!!
Sherwood
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 22 September, 2005 - 09:51 am:   

Sadly most of London's water mains are rusting away and need to be replaced. However, this would reduce Thames Water's short term profits (and reduce leakage estimated at 30% of all the water supplied). Therefore, Thames Water prefer to leave things as they are and only repair bursts.
Personally I believe it would make more sense to replace all water pipes. This would greatly reduce haphazard burst mains and conserve water. But it won't happen because doing this would cost money. Private companies do not want to invest money unless they can predict a vast return on their investment.
You can probably tell that I am not a fan of privatisation in this area where there is no competition to reduce prices.
Brian
Joined 18-04-2005
Posted on Thursday, 22 September, 2005 - 05:19 pm:   

Maybe a connection between this story and the forest hill pools. Is all the water going there
Roz
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 22 September, 2005 - 09:36 pm:   

Brian
You are a gem!
Les
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Sunday, 25 September, 2005 - 10:54 am:   

Sherwood,

Working for an infrastructure company (nothing to do with Thames Water), I get annoyed about the highly simplistic views you have on TW and privatisation.

Privatisation was a political decision taken precisely because of the high costs and lack of upkeep of the infrastructure, which is a problem that TW inherited.

I agree most of London's water system is ancient, being old cast-iron mains that are deteriorating and can't cope with heavy traffic loads etc. But replacing 20,000 miles of mains and 40,000 miles of sewers overnight is just not an option. Gradual replacement at a rate that the public will stand is the only sensible option.

The balance between profit and rate of replacement is closely regulated by Ofwat - in the latest plan over 3 BILLION is being spent over the next five years, far more than ever under public ownership.

Finally, I agree TW's profits are substantial, but its debateable if they are excessive - 189M on a turnover of 1,174M, of which over half went to shareholders, but that is a fact of capitalist life.

Les.
Sherwood
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Sunday, 25 September, 2005 - 10:21 pm:   

Les,

I agree privatisation was a political decision. Therefore, I am entitled to disagree with it if I choose. Most privatisations before Thames Water were of utilities where a certain amount of competition was possible, e.g. you can travel by train, coach, bus or car. Or if BT charge too much for a telephone I can use another telephone company. Unfortunately, I only have one water supplier. Therefore, I cannot see that privatisation was likely to bring efficiencies driven by competition. If it was meant to bring increased investment, I cannot see that this is happening either. But perhaps you have the figures on this.

By all means enlighten me if you know of any point at which privatisation of water has brought about an improvement of service or reduction in prices.

All that the customer can see is increased interruption in supply and increased prices.

Also another indication of the state of our water mains is that Thames Water has reduced main pressure (to the point that blocks of flats require pumps to raise the water to their tanks) to reduce the likelihood of water mains bursting.

I am sorry that my views are simplistic. Perhaps the problem is that the theory of privatisation was simplistic.

I think that we all overlook the fact that many things we take for granted were built about a hundred years ago and there probably has not been any provision made for depreciation of our assets.

I don't have a problem with Thames Water making a profit. But with a monopoly supplier it is really a political and not an economic decision how much profit that organisation can make. So the original argument for privatisation (to allow free market enterprise forces to work) fails completely.

Finally, what hope do you offer Bt who seems to be suffering frequent failures of service?
Brian
Joined 18-04-2005
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 08:00 am:   

Hi Sherwood ( Guess you are from Nottingham )
I agree with a lot of what you say but not much a local web site can do over a National Government decision like that
Bt
Joined 27-07-2003
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 08:50 am:   

No water again Sunday afternoon 26th Sept. Thats 4 times in 10 days!!
Sherwood
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 10:08 am:   

Brian,

My mother came from Nottingham.
So I chose Sherwood as a nickname.
My father came from Catford! I didn't think that would sound so good!
Sherwood
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 10:09 am:   

Bt,

Are you at the top of the hill?
Is it a failure of pressure?
Dommy
Joined 27-05-2004
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 11:16 am:   

We live in the Taymount Rise area and we have recently had spates of no water. Whenever I turn on the tap to find no water coming out I am filled with the sense of dread that we'll have to get a plumber. If TW could at least forewarn us I would be more understanding. I have suggested this to them but they're not listening...
Seeformiles
Joined 09-04-2005
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 01:06 pm:   

I live near you Dommy and I feel the same way. It was off for ages the other night and I think it's really poor not to at least issue a warning about it.
Sherwood
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 01:12 pm:   

I have suffered two interruptions to supply since privatisation. No warning was given. The taps just ran dry. Previously a note was put through the door. Obviously it is more cost-effective to just turn off the water, but not a way to promote good customer relations. But if you are a monopoly you don't need to worry about your customers because they cannot go anywhere else.
Sherwood
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 01:24 pm:   

I suggest you write to complain to

Sir Robert Clarke
The Chairman
Thames Water
Gainsborough House
Manor Farm Road
Reading RG2 OJN

(Or less effective telephone: +44 (0)118 959 1159
Fax: +44 (0)118 959 3203)
Les
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 08:54 pm:   

Hi Sherwood,

I agree completely on the monopoly point. The plan is supposed to be that TW gets sacked by Ofwat if they don't perform, but in reality (taking Connex as an example), it is difficult to prove underperformance and takes years to change companies.

My point was that turning round ancient infrastructure is not an easy matter - you only need to look at the NHS, tube, railways, etc to see this. These for me are proof that the nationised system wasn't working, because long term infrastructure spend is an easy target for short term political cuts.

I remember in the 1980's that BR had visits from Japanese railway engineers because they couldn't understand how it was possible to run the service with so little cash!

Cheers,
Les.
Sherwood
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 26 September, 2005 - 10:11 pm:   

Les,

Unfortunately, the lack of investment in the nationalised industries was precisely the problem. Mrs Thatcher rigidly controlled the investment (known as the public sector borrowing requirement) because she believed this would control inflation.
In reality certain private industries were sold off to use the cash received to help keep taxation low.
Our water and sewage system requires a massive investment to bring it up to a reasonable standard. The investment could have been raised by taxation, but it will now be raised by increased charges to the consumer.
My difficulty in this case is that private companies are profit maximisers. Investment that does not bring a significant return on investment is not worth pursuing. It is difficult to see how decisions to spend vast amounts of money on replacement water mains will be made on economic grounds. So in reality we are back to a political position. In this case I believe replacement is driven by Ofwat's target for reduction of leakage.

In other areas (transport) I have been pleasantly surprised by some improvements that I have noticed.


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