Highways England tenders £1.9bn Lower Thames Crossing contracts

01/04/2021
Dominic Browne

Highways England has invited tenders on two roads contracts worth a combined £1.9bn to build routes north and south of the River Thames on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing.

The two successful bidders will build a total of 14.3 miles of new roads connecting what would be the longest road tunnel in the UK to the strategic road network. In total the scheme could cost up to £8bn, according to some estimates.

The tender process:

The £600m Kent Roads contract is a two-stage design and build contract for the part of the route from the A2/M2 corridor to 1km south of the southern tunnel entrance, with strategic utilities and environmental interfaces. The scheme comprises:

  • 6km of new road, including a multi-level junction to connect the A2 to the Lower Thames Crossing 
  • Environmental mitigation is a the heart of our scheme, most visibly with two 'green bridges' at Thong Lane and Brewers Road, combining green spaces with walking, cycling and vehicle access and providing better connectivity for the landscape, ecology and habitats. Brewers Road will also cater for horse riders
  • Extensive landscaping new and upgraded structures, embankments, cuttings and retaining walls
  • Diversion of utilities including strategic gas mains, electricity cables, water, and telecoms 
  • Ecological works for species protection and habitat enhancement along the route 

The £1.3bn Roads North of the Thames contract is also a two-stage design and build contract delivering the route from 1km north of the northern tunnel entrance to Junction 29 of the M25. New link roads are required to connect the route with the M25, A13 and A1089. The work comprises:

  • 16km of new road with over 30 proposed new and/or upgraded structures, embankments, cuttings and retaining walls, under bridges to take the route through the A13 and to join the M25 at Junction 29
  • Five 'green bridges' combining green spaces with walking, cycling and vehicle access and provide better connectivity for the landscape, ecology and habitats.
  • Two viaducts at Tilbury over Tilbury Loop Railway and at across Orsett Fenn over the Mardyke flood plain. Both have been design to enhance connectivity under the crossing, supporting local community access
  • The diversion of utilities including gas mains and electric cables and towers
  • Ecological works for species protection and habitat enhancement along the route.

Matt Palmer, Lower Thames Crossing executive director, said: 'The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious road project this country has seen since the M25 was completed 35 years ago. These contracts show our commitment to this project, which will support 22,000 jobs during its construction and provide a huge economic boost to the UK economy when it opens for traffic.

'Our challenge is to build the new crossing in a way that not only supports the next generation of low carbon vehicles, but minimises our footprint, and allows us to enhance the natural environment and leave a positive legacy for our neighbours and users.'

The news comes after the Planning Inspectorate rejected Highways England's first application for a Development Consent Order for the scheme late last year.

The government-owned company said it would re-submit the application this year with more information in key areas.

If given the green light, the project could support over 22,000 jobs during construction, including hundreds of opportunities for apprentices, graduates, and local businesses.

The scheme has proven controversial due to its environmental impact, but Highways England said its ambition was to make the Lower Thames Crossing 'the most environmentally sustainable road project ever delivered in the UK'.

Highways England claimed the scheme would: 'Support delivery of landscaping that will increase the biodiversity value of the area by 15% by planting over 260 hectares of new woodland, converting 400 hectares of arable land into semi-natural habitats, and creating new ponds, waterways, ditches and hedgerows.'

The two roads contracts are the final of three main works contracts to be procured for the scheme, with the £2bn Tunnels and Approaches contract currently out for tender and the £162.5m Integration Partner contract awarded to Jacobs earlier in the year. 

Visit www.highwaysengland.co.uk/our-work/lower-thames-crossing/ for more information on this project.

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