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Lower Thames Crossing budget pledge by National Highways to benefit local businesses


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Highways bosses have pledged to spend £1 in every £3 with local businesses to build the Lower Thames Crossing.

An innovative new database of more than 500 firms has been created by National Highways to help local businesses win their share of work on the tunnel project east of Gravesend.

One of the latest photographs released by Highways England of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. Picture: Highways England
One of the latest photographs released by Highways England of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. Picture: Highways England

The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious road project in over 35 years. If given the green light it will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London, reduce congestion at the Dartford Crossing, and play a role in the region’s economic recovery by supporting tens of thousands of jobs.

National Highways has set a target for £1 in every £3 of the project’s main works construction budget, which doesn’t include land costs or fees, is to go to small and medium sized businesses either directly or through its supply chain.

To help local businesses take advantage, the Lower Thames Crossing SME Directory has been created. More than 500 businesses ranging from caterers to accountants and builders have signed up.

The first edition of the database has now been issued to the shortlisted bidders for the main roads and tunnel contracts.

The tunnel will be east of Gravesend, towards Strood
The tunnel will be east of Gravesend, towards Strood

The database still remains open for new entries and will be updated regularly.

Matt Palmer, executive director for the Lower Thames Crossing, said: “The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious road project in a generation, and we need a huge range of people and suppliers to help us deliver it. We want to give local companies the very best possible chance to get involved.

"The SME Directory is just one way we are doing this. It showcases just how much talent and expertise there is on our doorstep, which, along with National Highways target of awarding at least £1 in every £3 of the project’s procurement spend with SMEs, will help support the regional economy as it recovers from the pandemic.

"The directory also has the potential to reduce the project’s carbon footprint with goods and services sourced locally cutting distances travelled.”

Matt Palmer, chief executive of the Lower Thames Crossing. Photo: Highways England/YouTube
Matt Palmer, chief executive of the Lower Thames Crossing. Photo: Highways England/YouTube

Tim Aker, development manager for the Kent and Medway Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “The Lower Thames Crossing SME directory is a fantastic initiative to bring SMEs into the project supply chain.

"Utilising local SMEs brings added value, with local knowledge an obvious bonus. Tendering out to local firms also reduces emissions and ensures that funding stays in the local communities. It’s a win-win situation.”

National Highways is also offering local businesses free training and access to resources from the Supply Chain Sustainability School (SCSS), so they can prepare to bid on work on the Lower Thames Crossing or any other major infrastructure project.

Businesses can register their interest in working on the project, access training and sign up to the SME Directory on the Lower Thames Crossing website.

The tunnel is designed to ease congestion on the Dartford Crossing Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
The tunnel is designed to ease congestion on the Dartford Crossing Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

This week, National Highways is also speaking directly to potential suppliers to lay out its expectations for all levels of the supply chain to drive down their carbon footprint.

National Highways is currently analysing over 3,000 responses received during the latest consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing carried out earlier in 2021 and is preparing a new application for a Development Consent Order.

Construction is expected to start in 2024 and take around six years, with a target opening date between 2029 and 2030.

Read more: All the latest news from Gravesend

Read more: All the latest news from Dartford

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