Unanswered questions about funding and concerns about project scope have been raised by Highways England and politicians.
Highways England expressed concerns about plans to build Heathrow airport’s third runway over the M25, in its initial deliverability report obtained by New Civil Engineer. Heathrow’s proposal suggests dropping the M25 into a 7m deep tunnel beneath the runway and moving it150m west. Highways England’s concerns about the plans include the durability of the tunnel structure, complex temporary supporting works, and drainage in the high water table area.
With the full hearing for legal challenges against Heathrow expansion getting underway in March, the airport’s bosses face a nervy few weeks.
Highways England itself has also faced concerns about two of its flagship projects, with MPs expressing funding concerns about the Lower Thames Crossing and the Stonehenge Tunnel. Both projects were set to be part funded by PF2 deals, but since chancellor Phillip Hammond scrapped all PFI/ PF2 projects in the Autumn Budget, Highways England has been left waiting to see what alternatives the Department for Transport will pull out of its hat. As the projects were due to be privately funded, they were left out of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) £25.3bn draft
Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2 – which runs from 2020 to 2025), published only a day after the PF2 deals were scrapped. At the time of the Autumn Budget Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told New Civil Engineer that they – and the industry – needed an answer by the end of January. Three months into the year and the wait goes on.