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Man who spent months sleeping rough after ‘losing everything’ finds work on one of London’s biggest infrastructure projects

A man who thought he had ‘lost everything’ after living on the streets for three months is seizing the opportunity to get back into work on London’s new ‘super sewer’.

Peter Cheasman, from Catford in south-east London, slept on the streets of London after he was released from a six-month spell in prison.

The former tyre-fitter was referred to Thames Reach, one of Tideway’s charity partners which helps homeless and vulnerable people get back into work, before he was put forward for Tideway’s pre-employment programme.

The scheme, funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and aimed at people who live in boroughs where Tideway’s main sites are based, provides interview preparation and practice, health and safety training, work experience and a guaranteed interview for full-time employment on the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Peter is now working full-time on the project as a general operative.

The 54-year-old, who previously worked for the same company for 38 years, said: “I went from having a full time job to losing everything. You have just got to get the help and take the advice you’re given. It’s not going to come to you, you have to go to them and help yourself.”

Through Thames Reach, he took courses in bricklaying and painting and decorating, before being recommended for the pre-employment programme at Tideway.

He said: “I’ve always enjoyed working outside, doing DIY. This programme has helped me learn different skills and meet a lot of different people. Everyone has been so supportive, they can’t do enough for me.”

Virginia Croft, Thames Reach’s basic skills coordinator, said: “Peter repeatedly says how grateful he is for the support he has been given by Thames Reach and Tideway.  

“We offered him opportunities, but the hard work and determination to get his life back on track came from him – we are all so proud of what he has achieved.”

The building of the Thames Tideway Tunnel is being completed in three parts – East, West and Central – with each section being delivered by a different joint venture of construction companies.

Peter is taking part in the pre-employment programme for the East section, which is being delivered by a joint venture of Costain, VINCI Construction Grands Projets and Bachy Soletanche.

Six people took part in the scheme, which launched in February, with two people – including Peter – landing full-time roles on the project. A further three people from the programme are expected to start working on the project this month.

Jeremy Galpin, Legacy lead for the East section of Tideway, said: “As we build our tunnel to help clean up the River Thames, we are also dedicated to providing employment opportunities for people who live in the boroughs where we are working and opening up doors to careers in construction.

“Following our first pre-employment programme, we are delighted that two people from boroughs in the East section of the project have started in full-time roles on the Thames Tideway Tunnel. They clearly demonstrated their commitment throughout the pre-employment process and have fitted well into the teams on site and are already adding real value.”

The Central and West pre-employment programmes started in March and April.  

In total, 30 people were recruited onto the programme and received training, 15 secured work placements and 12 went into employment with Tideway contractors.

For more information about careers at Tideway, visit