Highways England has appointed Tim Jones as project director for the new £4bn Lower Thames Crossing tunnnel scheme.
Jones’ appointment comes at a critical time for the project as the government seeks pilot projects to be delivered via its new private finance mechanism – labelled PF2. In May he will leave his role as chief executive of Connect Plus, which since 2009 has held the £6bn, 30 year DBFO contract to maintain and operate the M25.
Last year’s Autumn Statement revealed that the Infrastructure & Projects Authority (IPA) is to develop a new pipeline of projects that would be suitable for delivery through the PF2 scheme, and which is likely to include the Lower Thames Crossing. This list is due to be published this spring.
IPA senior advisor Keith Waller told New Civil Enigneer in December that no public project was on or off the table for consideration as a privately-financed scheme. “Some things currently slated to be publicly financed could be PF2,” he said, before pointing to the £22.5bn education programme to 2020/21 alongside major civils infrastructure such as the Lower Thames Crossing.
Waller stressed that schemes would not be packaged up in such a way as to purely woo investors, a criticism levelled at schemes delivered through the traditional, and out of favour, Private Finance Initiative.
“The demand [from investors] is already there,” he said. “So we are not doing this to give a rate of return to investors. We are doing it to benefit the nation. If an opportunity to put a finance package together arises, that’s good. But not as a means to an end.”
Lower Thames Crossing proposed tunnel route
Highways England has proposed the new road crossing be carried beneath the Thames via bored tunnel.
The preferred route would provide a dual carriageway connection from junction 1 of the M2 to the M25 between junctions 29 and 30, crossing under the River Thames just east of Gravesend and Tilbury.