Bouygues Travaux Publics Murphy JV wins Lower Thames Crossing tunnelling contract8 December 2023
National Highways has awarded Bouygues Travaux Publics – Murphy Joint Venture (BMJV) the Lower Thames Crossing Tunnels and Approach contract to build the country’s largest bored tunnels.
The award completes the assembly of the Lower Thames Crossing delivery team, with BMJV joining Balfour Beatty building the roads north of the Thames, and Skanska which will build the roads in Kent.
The Lower Thames Crossing is a proposed new road connecting Kent and Essex that will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London. The 4.2km twin-bore river crossing will be the longest UK road tunnel and, with a diameter of over 16m, one of the largest tunnels in Europe. More than 80 per cent of the route will be below ground or behind landscaped embankments. A tunnel was chosen rather than a bridge to reduce the environmental impact on sensitive ecological landscapes such as the Thames Estuary and Marshes.
The scheme has been designated a ‘pathfinder’ project to explore carbon neutral construction as part of National Highways’ efforts to make the new crossing the greenest road ever built in the UK.
National Highways said the delivery team would now work to improve the design and explore ways to maximise the project’s benefits. This includes working with local stakeholders to carry out the detailed design work that will reduce the impact of construction on the local community and environment, and to embed new and emerging low carbon technologies and materials. The team has also made commitments to develop a local supply chain, and help local people take advantage of the new green jobs and skills that will be available.
Lower Thames Crossing executive director Matt Palmer said the delivery team had 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,” he said.
“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.”
Bouygues Travaux Publics managing director Bertrand Burtschell said the company would “work tirelessly to deliver a project that is the benchmark for future infrastructure in terms of skills education, employment opportunities, local business growth and exemplar low carbon construction”.
Nick Fletcher, UK managing director, said the project was “a great opportunity for all partners to showcase our engineering expertise and commitment to collaboration and constructing low carbon infrastructure”.
The Tunnels and Approaches contract includes the design and construction of the twin road tunnels under the river Thames. The 16m diameter tunnels will carry three lanes of traffic and allow use by goods vehicles currently restricted from crossing at Dartford, such as double decker HGVs and those carrying fuels like hydrogen. The contract also includes the tunnel systems, portal buildings, and approach roads.
National Highways says the Lower Thames Crossing’s procurement process builds on lessons learned on other projects. Bringing the delivery partners on board at an early stage, combined with the additional planning time gained by rephasing the project’s construction period earlier this year, means National Highways is able to more effectively manage risk and cost, the organisation said.
The procurement approach also supported the project’s role as a Pathfinder exploring carbon neutral construction. It is the UK’s first major infrastructure project to set an ambitious construction carbon limit in its procurement process, and then allow the competition between bidders to achieve further carbon reduction at no additional cost. BMJV has used its tunnelling and engineering experience to dramatically reduce the embodied carbon below this carbon limit, as well as ways to refine the design to reduce disruption to the local community and leave a legacy of green jobs and skills.