Highways England is today (Monday 11 January) calling on local businesses in Kent and Essex to be a part of the most ambitious road scheme seen in the UK in nearly 35 years, the Lower Thames Crossing. 

The project has created a Small Medium Enterprise (SME) directory, a database of local businesses and their specialists, which will be given to the main works contractors, so they have ready access to local firms – giving them the best possible chance to work on this transformative project. 

Since the directory was launched in late December over 60 businesses, ranging from printers and builders to security firms and training providers, have already entered their details. The target is to have hundreds of businesses registered to help ensure as much of the work needed to build the Crossing goes to local firms. 

The Lower Thames Crossing will improve journeys by almost doubling road capacity across the Thames east of London, with 14.3 miles of new road featuring two 2.6-mile-long tunnels. Works on the mega project could start in around 18 months, and is a key part of the largest investment in UK’s roads in a generation. 

The scheme will also help to unlock a wealth of economic benefits in Kent and Essex with better connections to the regions ports, distribution hubs and manufacturing centres. 

Matt Palmer, Executive Director for the Lower Thames Crossing said:  

“The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious road project in nearly 35 years. At a time of huge uncertainty for the UK economy, this scheme will create tens of thousands of jobs in the local area and create many opportunities for smaller businesses.  

“We need the of businesses large and small to build the scheme, but we know the challenges of getting a foot in the door on projects of this scale, so we want to remove the barriers between businesses and our main contractors.” 

Deborah Turner, Area Leader for the Federation of Small Businesses said:  

“Small businesses in Kent, London and Essex have told us they are keen to access procurement opportunities within this major project, so we are delighted that the Highways England team have listened and have created this SME Directory. Our research shows that for every £1 spent with a small business, 63p remains within the local economy. We urge small businesses to register as soon as they can”

In October Highways England began the search for partners to deliver the scheme with the announcement of a £2 billion Tunnel and Approaches package – Highways England’s single largest contract ever. The notice for two major road packages will be released early in 2021.  The Lower Thames Crossing is expected to create tens of thousands of new jobs during construction including labourers, civil engineers, archaeologists, surveyors, caterers, cleaners.  
Highways England is also supporting businesses that want to bid for work on other road projects. The Regional Delivery Partnership (RDP) is Highways England’s program for constructing highway projects through to 2024.   On 29 January 2021, a virtual event will provide more information on businesses that can find work on this £8.7bn program of work.

The Supply Chain Sustainability School also offers free training and resources so that SMEs can prepare to bid for work on the Lower Thames Crossing and any other major infrastructure project.  For more information about the Lower Thames Crossing, visit: https://highwaysengland.co.uk/our-work/lower-thames-crossing/

Image sourced by Wikimedia Commons