More than 160 companies have signed up to be a part of Highways England’s scheme to upgrade the A303, including the construction of a tunnel under Stonehenge.
In December Highways England asked SMEs to apply to be a part of the project-the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme, and now 161 have applied-half of those from Wiltshire.
A virtual event was the first in a series of engagement activities planned with local and regional SMEs ahead of fieldwork and preliminary works starting later this year.
David Bullock, Highways England project manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme, said: “We’re delighted by the response so far, and we’d like to see that number double again in the coming weeks to enable local and regional SMEs to gain access to business opportunities within the scheme.
“We need businesses large and small to help build the scheme, but we understand that small and medium-sized enterprises face challenges in getting a foot in the door on projects of this scale, so we want to break down any barriers by standardising terms and conditions, minimising requirements and applying a fair and prompt payment initiative.
“The project has numerous benefits, not only in improving journey reliability and enhancing the World Heritage Site landscape, but also in unlocking economic growth in the South West.”
The preliminary work will provide initial opportunities within the next six months or so with greater potential for SMEs ahead, once Highways England appoints its main contractor later this year, or early 2022.
Highways England is already working closely with the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Business West, the Federation of Small Businesses, Salisbury and District Chamber of Commerce and Salisbury BID, and has also partnered nationally with the Supply Chain Sustainability School to provide free online training.
This helps smaller companies to upskill and places them in a better position to tender for work on larger infrastructure projects, such as the A303 Stonehenge upgrade.
Deborah Fraser, South West Director of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), said: “Upgrades to the full A303/A30/A358 corridor will drastically improve connectivity between the South West and the rest of the country, and open new doors for businesses in advanced manufacturing, low carbon and digital technologies, and tourism and hospitality.
“Those new opportunities begin with the construction phase, and it’s encouraging to see so many local SMEs expressing an interest in lending their expertise to this transformative project.”