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Thu February 25 2021

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Builders called to bid for Britain's biggest road tunnel

11 Nov 20 Highways England is today inviting tenders for its largest ever contract, the £2.3bn main works package to build the Lower Thames Crossing road tunnel.

CGI of the northern tunnel entrance to the Lower Thames Crossing in Essex
CGI of the northern tunnel entrance to the Lower Thames Crossing in Essex

The Lower Thames Crossing, a £6bn project in all, comprises 14.3 miles of new road to the east of London, with twin 2.6 mile-long tunnels connecting Kent and Essex.

Works on the project could start in mid-2022.

The tunnels and approaches contract includes design and construction of twin road tunnels under the River Thames. At 16 metres wide, these tunnels will be some of the largest bored tunnels in the world.  They will also be the longest road tunnels in the UK. The scope also includes the portal buildings, approach roads and the tunnel systems.

The tunnels and approaches contract is the first of the three main works contacts to be procured for the scheme, with the ‘roads north’ and the ‘A2 M2’ contracts expected to be announced early in 2021.

Keith Bowers, the Lower Thames Crossing’s tunnels and systems director, said: “This contract is unparalleled in its ambition, and we need the right partner to match that ambition. From our bidders we’re looking for outstanding construction, health, safety and wellbeing performance. We have committed to targets that mean by 2040 nobody will be killed or seriously injured on our roads and motorways, and we need our contractors’ design and delivery to meet that target for our road users and workers.

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 “We are setting priorities in our contracts that will reward excellence during delivery by offering an enhanced share of cost savings for high performance in areas including health and safety, customer focus, delivery, environment, people and communities and economics.”

CGI of the planned A2 M2 junction in Kent
CGI of the planned A2 M2 junction in Kent

The scheme’s planning application was submitted on 23rd October, with the Planning Inspectorate having 28 days to review the application and decide whether to allow the application to proceed to examination. A decision is expected from the secretary of state for transport in 2022, with (if favourable) construction expected to start later that year.

The A303 Stonehenge (Amesbury to Berwick Down) scheme, another significant Highways England tunnelling project, is due to receive a decision on its development consent order application by the Secretary of State for Transport on Friday (13 November).

The Lower Thames Crossing tender process is being undertaken via the Bravo eSourcing platform, highways.bravosolution.co.uk.

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