Cities Underground: London and the Thames Gateway Development Zone

Big Ben with BGS logo superimposed on road

The population of London is around seven million; the infrastructure to support this makes London one of the most intensively investigated areas in the UK, where countless boreholes have been drilled for ground investigation and water supplies.

The Thames Gateway Development Zone consists of a 40-mile stretch of land along the River Thames from central London to the Thames Estuary. It is the focus for the biggest development programme in the UK for over 50 years (200 000 new homes will be built).

Subterranean construction work in the London area continues to reveal the presence of 'anomalous' ground conditions. These occurrences can prove costly if not predicted by initial site surveys.

To address these issues the British Geological Survey has established a trans-disciplinary project that works closely with external collaborators to develop a dynamic geoenvironmental model for the London area, within which these 'anomalies' can be explained.

Cities Underground research themes

Fault modelling under LondonFault modelling under London

Traditionally the London Basin has been considered to be 'relatively simple' synclinal basin. However, there is a growing body of evidence from recent site investigations suggesting that the structure of the basin is more complex.

3D modelling thumbnal3D property modelling of the Lambeth Group in central London

The variability of the Lambeth Group, can give rise to difficult ground conditions for civil engineering works. Scientist at BGS are developing 3D property models to understand the detailed distribution of the Groups component units.

Coastal pollution and climateInitial screening tools for contaminated land and groundwater protection

This tool has been developed to assist the planning community in the assessment of the potential risk to ground and surface waters from contaminants mobilised as a consequence of development.

Coastal pollution and climateUnderstanding the origin of drift-filled hollows in central London

Engineering works carried out in central London have unearthed drift-filled hollow features which exhibit curious characteristics. BGS is undertaking a project to look at the occurrence and genesis of these geological features in central London.

Coastal pollution and climateProperty modelling in the Thames Gateway Development Zone

To gain full value from the 3D geological model in the urban environment, attribution of the model with engineering geological and hydrological data is necessary.

Coastal pollution and climateFlooding and subsidence in the Thames Gateway: impact on insurance loss potential

Areas where Holocene deposits are showing negligible subsidence at the present time may start to subside again under the weight of future flood water and sediment, or rehydration of sediments under flood water.

Coastal pollution and climateSustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

SuDS are drainage solutions that provide an alternative to the direct channelling of surface water through networks of pipes and sewers to nearby watercourses. What issues need to be considered? What information can BGS provide?


Humans have had such an impact on the environment that scientists are debating whether we have entered a new geological time Epoch — The Anthropocene.


Royse, K R, De Freitas, M, Burgess, W, Cosgrove, J, Ghail, R, Gibbard, P, King, C, Lawrence, U, Mortimore, R, Owen, H and Skipper, J.  In press.  Geology of London, UK.  Proceedings of the Geologist Association

Marchant, A P, Banks, V J, Royse, K R, Quigley, S P and Wealthall, G P.  In press.  An Initial Screening Tool for water resource contamination due to development in the Olympic Park 2012 site, London.   Environmental Geology.

Mortimore, R, Newman, T, Royse, K R, Scholes, H and Lawrence, U.   In press.   Chalk: its stratigraphy, structure and engineering geology in east London and the Thames Gateway.   Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology.

Ford, J R, Mathers, S J, Royse, K R, Aldiss, D T and Morgan, D.   2010.  Scientific discovery and realisation through 3D geological modelling, with examples from the UK.  Zeitschrift der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geowissenschaften, 161, 205–218.

Royse, K R, Kessler, H, Robins, N S, Hughes, A G and Mathers, S.   2010.  The use of 3D geological models in the development of the conceptual groundwater model.   Zeitschrift der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geowissenschaften, 161, 237–249.

Royse, K R, Tyne, A, Linley, K and Napier, H J.  2009.   The Development of an Underground Asset Management Tool in BGS.  British Geological Survey Open Report OR/09/023

Royse, K R, Rutter, H K and Entwisle, D C.  2009.   Property attribution of 3D geological models in the Thames Gateway: New ways of visualising geoscientific information.   Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment 68, 1–16

Royse, K R.  2009.  Utiliser et amenger l'espace souterrain Modelisation 3D du sous-sol pour les site des jeux olympiques 2021 a Londres.  in Dossier special annee international de la planete terre. 10 enjeux des geosciences. 111pp

Royse, K R, Reeves, H J and Gibson, A R.  2008.  The modelling and visualisation of digital geoscientific data as an aid to land-use planning in the urban environment, an example from the Thames Gateway.  in Communicating Environmental Geoscience, pp. 89–106, eds. Liverman, D G E, Pereira, C and Marker, B.


For further information contact Dr Katherine Royse or Enquiries