Contract roles changed in Highways England rethink

Highways England has revised its plans for the Lower Thames Crossing, announcing an updated market engagement process for the £6.8bn scheme.

The agency said it was launching a procurement process to find a firm to fill its new delivery partner services contract, which replaces the plans laid out last year.

Last February Highways England opened a wider market engagement process for archaeological and enabling works, as well as information technology and an updated process relating to the tunnels and roads.

Now in a prior information notice (PIN) published to the Official Journal, Highways England said this new plan replaces that.

It said: “This new PIN is being issued to start a market engagement process on the delivery partner service contract and supersedes earlier plans set out in the 2019 PIN only for an early works delivery manager (EDWM) contract for the Lower Thames Crossing project.”

The delivery partner is not a direct replacement for the EWDM and will be responsible for a different scope of services than those previously proposed. The 2019 PIN will remain valid for the main works contracts.

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The delivery partner services contract is expected to be worth around £275m, while the overall project, the largest in Highways England’s road investment programme, is estimated to cost between £5.3bn and £6.8bn.

The role is set to run for eight years, with the possibility of two extensions of one year each. The delivery partner is due to be involved in the procurement and mobilisation of three main works contractors, construction and commissioning into operation.

Highways England said a market engagement pack containing further details would be issued in the middle of this month, and that one-to-one sessions should take place in early to mid-March. A contract notice is expected to be issued on 1 June.

Last year Highways England said it was working closely with the government to ensure that the project kept to the required timescale, following the decision to stop the use of PFI. The scheme had been slated to be part-funded under a PF2 arrangement. 

The 23km Lower Thames Crossing project will feature two bored tunnels beneath the River Thames with interconnecting link roads to the M25, A13, and A2. It will cross the river east of Tilbury in Essex and Gravesend in Kent, creating a link between the A2 and the M25.

The crossing will feature three lanes in each direction and, at 16m in diameter, will be one of the largest bored tunnels in the world.