Collaborative approach for Lower Thames tunnel

By Leila Steed03 May 2022

An impression of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, to the east of London, UK - image courtesy Highways England

UK infrastructure authority National Highways has invited the shortlisted bidders for its £2.3 billion (€2.7bn) Lower Thames Crossing tunnel and approaches contract to participate in “competitive dialogue” as part of the next phase of the procurement process.

BFV - a joint venture firm comprising BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Construction and Vinci Construction Grands Projets - and the joint venture companies Bouygues Murphy and Dragados-Hotchief are all expected to engage in the collaborative approach, which aims to “deliver solutions that meet the challenging ambitions” for the project.

Almost doubling the road capacity across the River Thames, construction of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing to the east of London aims to ease congestion on the Dartford Crossing, improve journey times, and create opportunities for economic growth in the Kent and Essex regions.

The roads and approaches contract comprises the construction of the 4.3km long twin bore tunnel and its approach roads, with 80% of the route to be built underground or behind landscaped embankments to reduce its environmental impact.

“The competitive dialogue approach has been adopted as this is a highly complex project, with unique challenges that require innovative solutions,” said National Highways.

The start of this new procurement phase comes just a month after National Highways designated the proposed crossing a ‘pathfinder’ project.

As such, it aims to bring together “a broad range of partners from major engineering companies to small businesses and universities, to identify, test and scale-up innovative ways of building and maintaining low carbon infrastructure”.

National Highways said, “Key elements of all the project contracts include agreeing an ambitious low-carbon baseline, incentivising ongoing reduction of carbon throughout the project life cycle.

“In addition, the contracts will have a significant focus on the use of local suppliers and SMEs whilst maximising the benefits for the local community through creation of jobs, apprenticeships, and new skills.”

National Highways, which will carry out a Local Refinement Consultation between 12 May to 20 June 2022, plans to apply for a Development Consent Order for the new crossing later this year.

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