The UK’s National Highways has announced that Skanska has been named the preferred bidder for the Kent Roads contract on the Lower Thames Crossing project.
The Lower Thames Crossing has been designated as a Pathfinder project for carbon neutral construction. In 2022 it became the first major infrastructure project in the UK to use its main procurement process to seek the lowest carbon construction available in the market.
National Highways asked for a minimum of 30% reduction across the project and the bid from Skanska proposes an even more challenging limit. National Highways will support Skanska in their ambition to go much further still, through a low carbon design approach, developed with Mott McDonald, and close working with their supply chain to champion new and innovative materials and technologies during construction.
The Lower Thames Crossing is a proposed new road connecting Kent and Essex through the UK’s longest road tunnel. It is designed to tackle congestion at the 60-year-old Dartford Crossing, make journeys across the region safer and more reliable, and drive economic growth by almost doubling road capacity across the Thames east of London.
The £450 million Kent Roads contract will deliver the southern part of the route that connects the A2/M2 to the tunnel approach, and includes almost 4 miles of new road and structures, one of the widest green bridges in Europe, a new public park, and 12 miles of new or improved pathways for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Skanska will also support National Highways’ plans to recruit almost half (45%) of its workforce from within 20 miles by upskilling local people with new qualifications and training, and aims to beat the project’s target of spending £1 in every £3 of the construction budget with SMEs. These targets will be met through a wide variety of programmes, including supply chain apprentice and other recruitment opportunities that give the widest and most inclusive access to the project as possible.
“Skanska has a track record of providing innovative low carbon solutions to projects, and leaving a genuine legacy of skills and innovation in the local community,” says Katharina Ferguson, Lower Thames Crossing procurement director. “We look forward to working together to deliver this desperately needed piece of new infrastructure in a way that pushes the boundaries in low-carbon construction and social value.”
The Kent Roads contract is the second of three major National Highways contracts that will deliver the Lower Thames Crossing. In January 2023, the Roads North of the Thames contract was awarded to Balfour Beatty and a separate contract for the Tunnels and Approaches is expected to be awarded later this year.
National Highways is awarding the contracts ahead of consent being granted for the project to allow its Delivery Partners as much time as possible to collaborate and carry out the detailed design work that seeks to reduce the impact of construction on the local community and the environment. It will also allow time to maximise the opportunities to use innovative low carbon technologies and materials, as well as develop a local supply chain.
The start of construction is subject to funding and consent decision from government. Over the next 6 months National Highways’ application for a Development Consent Order will be thoroughly examined by a panel of independent, government appointed experts. If consent is granted, the six-year construction period is expected to start in 2026.