Thames Water urged to improve response times after admitting floods are “devastating customers’ lives”


Thames Water have been called upon to “review urgently” their response times, after it was revealed that Barnet and Camden residents remain at risk from further flooding caused by burst pipes. Speaking at the London Assembly Environment Committee at City Hall, Thames Water bosses admitted that their response to the floods before Christmas was “not adequate” and said their maintenance system is “not good enough”. They also confirmed that their current monitoring techniques did not recognise any of the recently burst water mains as being in need of repair, meaning people across the capital – and in Barnet and Camden – are at risk of more devastating floods. Local London Assembly Member, Andrew Dismore described the situation as “completely unacceptable.”        

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in December following a number of burst trunk pipes on the Thames Water network in Islington, Hackney, and Lewisham.

The reaction time from Thames Water, both before and after the floods, was heavily criticised. It was pointed out that a smaller leak had been reported a number of days before a major pipe burst in Stoke Newington. Danny Leamon, the Head of Water Networks at Thames Water, admitted the organisation was “aware of the leak ahead of the failure” and that they “didn’t respond quickly enough to assess and resolve the situation”. It was also confirmed that the Fire Brigade called Thames Water to alert them to the problems at Upper Street at 5.07am, but that the mains were not shut off until 9.15am.

Furthermore, Mr Leamon admitted that current monitoring techniques would have identified the pipe in Islington as being “in very good condition” and that it “didn’t need any investment.” About 100 people were evacuated from their homes, with the water over six feet deep in basement properties, after the 36 inch pipe burst on December 5th last year.

Richard Aylard, the Director of External Affairs and Sustainability, said Thames Water was investing in devices that could provide warnings before bursts occur. However, only one of the burst pipes from last year had this in place – and it provided a warning of just three minutes.

Andrew Dismore AM, Local Labour Assembly Member said:

“I am calling on Thames Water to review urgently their response times. They had a warning a number of days before the flood in Stoke Newington, but had not yet finished investigating. It took over four hours between being alerted to the problems in Islington to the water supply being shut off. The speed and volume of the water in these pipes can fill an Olympic swimming pool in 40 minutes so every second really does count.


“It is also completely unacceptable that Thames Water have no idea which of their pipes are most at risk of bursting in the future, and if any of those pipes are in Barnet and Camden. The maintenance and risk assessment system is clearly inadequate and while I welcome their review into this, for those forced out of their homes at Christmas it will seem too little too late.”







  1. Environment Committee took place at City Hall on January 19th. The webcast can be found here, with the Thames Water discussion beginning at 1 hour 44 minutes;
  2. Giving evidence to the committee were

–       Richard Aylard, Director of External Affairs and Sustainability, Thames Water

–       Danny Leamon, Head of Water Networks, Thames Water

–       Councillor Feryal Demirci, Vice-chair of London Councils Transport and Environment Committee and Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Transport and Parks at London Borough of Hackney

–       Councillor Richard Greening, Chair of Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee, Islington Council

  1. More information about the floods before Christmas can be found here;
  2. More information on the burst pipe in Bexley can be found here;
  3. Andrew Dismore is the London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden