As the UK grapples with a major skills shortage on top of a bulging pipeline of major infrastructure schemes, three large European construction groups have been shortlisted to dig a new tunnel under the Thames.
Reported to cost £1bn, the Silvertown Tunnel is planned as a twin-bore toll-road road tunnel intended to ease congestion in east London.
Transport agency Transport for London (TfL) has revealed that the shortlisted bidders are Germany’s Hochtief Solutions, Spanish-headquartered firm Cintra Global, and a joint venture of Sweden’s Skansa and Austria’s Strabag, reports UK industry news site, Construction Enquirer.
The tunnel will be essential to help tackle congestion and reliability in east and south east London, as well as transform cross river bus services and support planned growth across the wider area– Leon Daniels, TfL
Work the new twin-bore road tunnel would begin in 2019, subject to final planning approval by Secretary of State.
The tunnel would then open in 2023, helping to ease the current serious traffic congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel.
The winner would have to take measures to reduce the disruption caused by the major works, including transporting at least 55% of all materials by barge on the river, to keep extra road traffic in the already congested area to a minimum.
"It’s great to see such a strong shortlist of bidders to design, finance, build, and maintain the new Silvertown Tunnel," said Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, reports the Enquirer.
He added: "The tunnel will be essential to help tackle congestion and reliability in east and south east London, as well as transform cross river bus services and support planned growth across the wider area."
A six month planning review into the plans for the tunnel is currently underway and a decision is expected by the Secretary of State in autumn 2017.
Confirmation of the successful bidder will be made following this decision.
In December 2016 the UK government published its National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline detailing more than £500bn worth of planned road, rail, energy and other infrastructure schemes planned for the coming years.
An earlier plan estimated that an additional 100,000 construction workers and engineers would be required to deliver planned infrastructure schemes, and that around 250,000 of the existing workforce would need to be retrained and "up-skilled" over the next decade.
These plans come as the industry is grappling with a looming skills shortage potentially exacerbated by the loss of EU workers thanks to Brexit.
Image: A map that shows the alignment of the proposed Silvertown Tunnel