Lower Thames Crossing: £1.9bn contracts enter final tender phase

National Highways has invited shortlisted bidders to tender for the £1.9bn contracts to build the connecting roads and other infrastructure for the Lower Thames Crossing, six months after announcing the shortlist.

The government-owned company has also announced a new consultation on its plans for what will be the longest road tunnel in the UK.

The procurement covers two design and build contracts, which are in addition to a contract worth £2.1bn to build the tunnels themselves and the approach roads.

Shortlists for the two contracts were announced in September but it appears that National Highways is seeking to bring the procurement into line with its delayed application for planning consent.

The £1.3bn Roads North of the Thames contract includes 16km of new road, over 30 structures including four green bridges and viaducts, and junctions with the A13 and M25, 40km of paths and new parks and woodlands.

The shortlisted bidders are:

  • Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Ltd;
  • KEJV, comprising Kier Highways Limited and Eiffage Génie Civil.

The £600m Kent Roads contract includes 6km of new road, a junction with the A2, three green bridges, 20km of pathways and a new park near Gravesend.

The shortlisted bidders are:

  • BFV JV, comprising BAM Nuttall Limited, Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and VINCI Construction Grands Projects
  • Costain Limited
  • KEJV 
  • Skanska Construction UK Limited

Katharina Ferguson, programme procurement for the project, said: ‘The Lower Thames Crossing will improve journeys for millions of people, create opportunities for local people and businesses, as well as help the country on the road to net zero.’

National Highways said the invitation to tender has been issued following the most comprehensive programme of market engagement it has ever undertaken and that procurement of the three main works contracts is continuing in parallel to the development consent process with the contract awards estimated to take place in summer 2023.

It said the ‘relatively quick procurement process is designed to enable the successful contractors to start the mobilisation and design works early, and give them time to maximise the opportunities for cross-contract collaboration, the development of a local supply chain, and adoption of low-carbon innovations’.

National Highways said it now plans to submit an application for a Development Consent Order for the new crossing later this year. It has also announced a forthcoming further round of public consultation on the project.

The ‘local refinement consultation’ publicises a number of updates made to the project, which are based on feedback from a consultation last year, ongoing stakeholder engagement and technical surveys.

National Highways has also amended its plans for Tilbury Fields, a new public park on the north bank of the Thames, to make space for the planned Thames Freeport.

The proposed changes include:

  • more public open space to the east of the tunnel entrance in Kent, connected to Chalk Park - the proposed new public park overlooking the Thames
  • additional environmental compensation and mitigation with potential woodland and public access
  • replacing a slip road on the A13 junction with a new link from the Orsett Cock roundabout to the A1089 to reduce traffic impacts on local roads
  • modified access to the northern tunnel portal providing safer operation of the tunnel facilities and better access for emergency services
  • a new footbridge over the A127 and further improvements for walkers, cyclists and horse riders including improved bridleways
  • further refinement of utility works

The consultation will run from 12 May to 20 June with consultation material available on a dedicated website.

Matt Palmer, executive director for the project, said: ‘We understand that millions of you who use Dartford every year are keen to see the road open as soon as possible, but getting the views of the local community on these local refinements before we submit our planning application later this year is vital to help us maximise the benefits of this transformative project.’

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