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Bouygues Murphy JV lands Lower Thames tunnel contract

7 Dec 23 National Highways has awarded a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics and Murphy a £1.34bn contract to build the country’s largest bored tunnels.

CGI of the planned Lower Thames Crossing
CGI of the planned Lower Thames Crossing

The contract to bore the tunnels of the £9bn Lower Thames Crossing is the final major award to be made for the Kent-Essex road link.

This contract also includes the tunnel systems, portal buildings and approach roads.  

Bouygues Murphy Joint Venture (BMJV) joins Balfour Beatty who will build the roads north of the Thames under a £1.2bn contract, and Skanska who will build the roads in Kent for £450m.

BMJV is a joint venture comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics SAS and J Murphy & Sons, supported by consulting engineers Mott McDonald and Ove Arup &Partners. It saw off competition from Dragados-Hochtief JV and BFV (Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial and Vinci), who were also shortlisted for the contract.

The £1.34bn price agreed between National Highways and BMJV is siubstantially below the £2.3bn upper estimate that was previously published by the client. 

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The Planning Inspectorate began the six-month process of detailed examination of National Highways’ development consent order application on 20th June 2023. If consent is granted, and both this and the next government stand by the project, the six-year construction period could start in 2026.

Given the breadth and depth of opposition to the scheme, and this government’s enthusiasm for axing major infrastructure projects, there is no certainty the project will proceed. However, National Highways is proceeding with confidence. It says that bringing the main contractors on board at an early stage, combined with the additional planning time gained by rephasing the project’s construction period earlier this year, means that it can more effectively manage risk and cost. 

Matt Palmer, Lower Thames Crossing executive director, said: “This contract award completes a world class team that has carbon reduction, community and value at its heart. By bringing the team together at an early stage we can focus on driving out carbon, delivering the best possible value for money and maximising the huge benefits the project will deliver nationally, regionally and locally.

“Bouygues Travaux Publics – Murphy JV and all of our delivery partners are fully bought into our passion for delivering a green-skills legacy and share our ambition to use the Lower Thames Crossing as a catalyst to change the whole construction industry’s attitude and approach to carbon reduction.”

The Tunnels and Approaches contract includes the design and construction of twin road tunnels under the river Thames, which at 2.6 miles will be the longest in the UK. At more than 16 metres wide they will be one of the widest in Europe to enable three lanes of traffic.

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