Jubilee River

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The Jubilee River at Slough Weir

The Jubilee River is a hydraulic channel in southern England. It is 11.6 km (7.2 mi) long[1] and is on average 45 metres (148 feet) wide.[2] It was constructed in the late 1990s and early 2000s to take overflow from the River Thames and so alleviate flooding to areas in and around the towns of Maidenhead, Windsor, and Eton in the counties of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. It achieves this by taking water from the left (at this point eastern) bank of the Thames upstream of Boulter's Lock near Maidenhead and returning it via the north bank downstream of Eton, Berkshire.[3] Although successful in its stated aims, residents of villages downstream claim it has increased flooding.[4]


The Environment Agency commissioned the design and construction of the river which cost £110 million.[5] When it was formed, the channel was the most expensive man-made river project undertaken in Britain in monetary terms (i.e. without adjusting for inflation), and the second largest[clarification needed] in Europe. Principal works were creation of the channel, various flow control mechanisms and bridges for road, rail and foot traffic. One of these, Dorney Bridge, takes the channel through a 19th-century Brunel-designed railway embankment, and was built while the railway continued to carry arterial passenger and goods trains between London and destinations such as South Wales, Cornwall and Bristol. The Victorian 12 m (39 ft) high embankment was stabilised by freezing over a period of three month using brine tubes cooled to −25 °C (−13 °F). At the same time as a tunnel was dug a pre-formed 50 m (160 ft) long box section was jacked through.[6] This created a 23 m (75 ft) wide by 9.5 m (31 ft) high tunnel into which a concrete culvert formed-to-fit was inserted.[2]

Dorney Bridge

The channel also had to be taken through Black Potts Viaduct, which carries a branch railway to Windsor. Protective structures[clarification needed] were put in place to preserve the viaduct's structural integrity.

The channel involved complex civil engineering to deal with utility conduits, roads and railways, as well as ecological and social issues, entailing compulsory purchases, community lectures and consultations and a public enquiry. Conception to fruition took about twenty years.

Defects in parts of the engineering emerged in the flood of January 2003, a serious test of the flood-relief main purpose of the channel. The channel saw flows well short of its designed maximum flow capacity, and some intended[clarification needed] weir damage, bed and bank erosion occurred.[7] The event prompted repairs and upgrades costing £3.5 million. The Environment Agency sued their lead design consultants for recovery of the remedial costs, and refunded the owner of the river £2.75 million in an out-of-court settlement.[8][9]

Black Potts Viaduct


The name used during planning was the "Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton Flood Alleviation Scheme" (MWEFAS). The choice of a name for the river was put to the local population in a poll.[10] The result was a strong preference for 'Jubilee', as it was being completed in Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee year of 2002 and one of the Queen's main residences is at Windsor Castle, in one of the three towns being protected by the scheme.

In use[edit]

On most analyses the Jubilee River looks and acts like a natural river.[11] Its banks have artificially constructed wildlife habitats intended to replace those lost from the banks of the Thames during urban expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries. During construction 38 hectares (94 acres) of reed beds and 5 hectares (12 acres) of wet woodland were laid down and about 250,000 trees were planted.[2]

The river is well used by walkers, runners, swimmers, wildlife enthusiasts and cyclists: a footpath combined with National Cycle Route 61 runs along virtually its entire length. A wide variety of bird life can be seen along the river, including green woodpeckers, cormorants, lapwing and red kites.

During flooding in the early months of 2014, some residents of Ham Island (in Old Windsor) and Wraysbury said that the Jubilee River had increased the height of the flooded Thames in those villages which, along with much of the river upstream of London, saw water levels unprecedented since 1947. Wraysbury had also suffered significant flooding in 2003.[4] The Environment Agency in the 2010s is undertaking a widening and dredging programme of Thames works to assist with downstream flows.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Windsor & Eton Self Guided Walk Stage 4- Victoria Bridge to Jubilee River". Travellers Toolkit. Archived from the original on 29 August 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  2. ^ a b c C. W. Nicol (2 July 2008). "The right way to reconstruct rivers". The Japan Times online. The Japan Times Ltd. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  3. ^ Environment Agency – A map indicating the location and route of the Jubilee River
  4. ^ a b "Wraysbury residents say Jubilee River is a 'disaster'". BBC News Online. 14 January 2014. Archived from the original on 12 April 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ "Charles Clover, Telegraph Environment Editor Flood maps show extra 300,000 homes are now at risk 7 October 2004". Archived from the original on 27 December 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  6. ^ Allenby, Douglas; Ropkins, John W (17 October 2017). "Jacked Box Tunnelling" (PDF). Norwich Engineering Society. §6.2 Flood Relief Culvert, Dorney: Institution of Mechanical Engineers. p. 16. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 May 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2019. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ "Royal Windsor Web Site January 2003 Floods and Jubilee River Bank Collapse". Archived from the original on 19 August 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  8. ^ New Civil Engineer Plus EA sues designers of failed Jubilee River flood defence EMAP Construct 15 June 2006
  9. ^ New Civil Engineer Plus News EMAP Construct 14 September 2006
  10. ^ "The Relief Channel is Completed but is it up to it?". The Royal Windsor Web Site. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  11. ^ "UK Rivers Guide Book Guide to the River Thames – Jubilee River". Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. ^ "Sky News 10 February 2014". Archived from the original on 11 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ "YBW". Archived from the original on 6 May 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)

External links[edit]

Next confluence upstream River Thames Next confluence downstream
Clewer Mill Stream (south) Jubilee River Colne Brook (north)

Coordinates: 51°30′17″N 0°39′10″W / 51.5047°N 0.6527°W / 51.5047; -0.6527