MegaProject 1220: Shortlisted consortium withdraws from US$1.4 billion Thames tunnel project
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One of the three consortia shortlisted for the GBP1 billion (US$1.4 billion) Silvertown Tunnel project has withdrawn from the tender process. The consortium comprised Swedish developer Skanska, Austrian construction company Strabag and Paris-based global investor and asset manager Meridiam.
The project entails the construction of a new road tunnel to cross the River Thames in East London, with the aim of reducing congestion on the existing crossings. The proposed Silvertown Tunnel would connect Silvertown, on the north bank of the river, and North Greenwich.
It is proposed to comprise two 11.45m Internal Diameter bores, each of approximately 1.0km in length, with two traffic lanes per bore and connecting cross-passages, plus cut-and-cover approaches at Greenwich and Silvertown, each of approximately 0.2km in length.
As reported on this platform, the tender to design, build, finance and maintain the project was launched by Transport for London (TfL) in October 2016. Alongside the Skanska-Strabag-Meridiam consortium, consortia led by Ferrovial and Hochtief were shortlisted in March 2017.
Despite the tender process being at an advanced stage, the project has not yet been approved by the UK government. TfL filed the planning application for the project in April 2016. The Secretary of State for Transport did not meet the October 2017 deadline, with the decision to grant the project having been extended until May 2018.
If the planning application is successful, TfL expect to begin construction in early 2019, with the aim of opening the tunnel in 2022/23. This indicates that PPP contract will be awarded soon after the planning application is approved.
The tunnel is intended to serve the Royal Docks, Isle of Dogs, Lower Lea Valley and Greenwich Peninsula, which currently depend on the heavily congested Blackwall tunnel for connection. TfL also claims that the tunnel will improve the local economy, through creating job opportunities and helping employers to access new markets, and the environment, through reducing the environmental impact of traffic congestion.
However, the project is fiercely resisted, with opponents claiming that it will attract more cars to the area, ultimately increasing congestion and thus pollution. There is considerable pressure on local authorities and the national government to redirect investment to crossings for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists; and tackle congestion by heavily regulating vehicles entering London. Therefore, the project is by no means sure to be approved.