National Highways takes next step in search for partner to build Lower Thames Crossing

National Highways has invited shortlisted bidders to participate in dialogue for the £2.3 billion contract to build the tunnel and approach roads for the Lower Thames Crossing.

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing includes the tunnel and 23kms of new road that would almost double road capacity across the River Thames east of London. The reliable new route would ease congestion on the Dartford Crossing, improve journeys across the region, and unlock economic growth by better connecting people to jobs and the region’s key ports, distribution hubs and manufacturing centres.  

The contract will be for the twin bored tunnel and its approach roads. At a length of 4.3km it will be the longest UK road tunnel and with a diameter of over 16m diameter, the widest tunnel in Europe. Over 80% of the route of the new crossing will be beneath ground or behind landscaped embankments. A tunnel was chosen rather than a bridge to reduce the environmental impact on sensitive ecological landscapes such as the Thames Estuary and Marshes. 

The project was recently designated a carbon pathfinder project, meaning it will explore ways to achieve carbon neutral construction.  The scheme’s three main works contracts; Kent Roads, Roads North of the Thames and Tunnels and Approaches are designed to maximise the environmental and social value outcomes for the local community.  Key elements of all the 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. 

Sinisa Galac, Project Director Tunnels, Lower Thames Crossing said: “The Lower Thames Crossing will transform lives as it improves journeys for millions of people, bringing new opportunities for those living and working in the area, and helping the UK on its road to net zero.  We’re looking forward to working with the construction industry to realise our low carbon ambitions and establish new and innovative solutions and construction methods as we embrace the challenge together.” 

Three bidders are shortlisted. They are: 

BFV JV; comprising BAM Nuttall Ltd, Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and Vinci Construction Grands Projets 

Bouygues Murphy Joint Venture (BMJV); comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics S.A.S. and J Murphy & Sons Ltd 

Dragados-Hochtief Joint Venture (DH JV); comprising Dragados S.A. and Hochtief Infrastructure Gmbh

The competitive dialogue approach has been adopted as this is a highly complex project, with unique challenges that require innovative solutions. The dialogue aims to deliver solutions that meet the challenging ambitions for the programme such as exploring carbon neutral construction. The process will allow dialogue between National Highways and the bidders, and is designed to be collaborative in its approach. 

The procurement of the three main works contracts is continuing in parallel to the development consent process with the contract awards anticipated in Summer 2023. The streamlined procurement process is designed to enable the successful contractors to commence the mobilisation and design works early, and allow time to maximise the opportunities for collaboration across the three main works and other related contracts, across areas including development of a local supply chain and developing low-carbon solutions as part of the optimised contractor involvement.

National Highways plans to submit an application for a Development Consent Order for the new crossing later this year, once it has held its Local Refinement Consultation, which runs from Thursday 12 May to 23.59 Monday 20 June 2022.

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