|AN innovative new database of more than 500 businesses, built by National Highways to help local firms win their share of work earmarked for SMEs on the Lower Thames Crossing, has today (Thursday 4 November) been handed over to the large construction and engineering firms bidding for work on the project.
The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious road project in over 35 years. If given the green light it will improve journeys by almost doubling road capacity across the Thames east of London, as well as play a role in the region’s economic recovery by supporting tens of thousands of jobs and helping upskill the diverse range of local businesses needed to help build the scheme.In line with the Government’s ambition to spend £1 in every £3 with SMEs, 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 of the investment National Highways has created the Lower Thames Crossing SME Directory; a register of the skills, services and contact details of local businesses that the projects main works contractors will be expected to use build a local supply chain. Since it launched in December 2020 more than 500 businesses ranging from caterers to accountants and builders have signed up, and whilst the first edition of the database has now been issued to the shortlisted bidders for the main roads and tunnel contracts, it 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.”Jade Uko, Development Manager for Essex Federation of Small Businesses, said:“It is more vital than ever that we utilise the range of expertise and skills which local Essex businesses have to offer. I am delighted to see progress on this being made with the growth of the Thames Crossing SME Directory. I would urge all local businesses, no matter their trade, to sign up and receive notifications for business opportunities right on their doorstep.’
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.
This week, National Highways is also speaking directly to potential suppliers at Highways UK to lay out its expectations for all levels of the supply chain to drive down their carbon footprint and to commit to ambitious social value targets.
These targets aim to make the most of this significant public investment for local communities, road users and the region, and have a positive impact on local people’s lives and wellbeing. 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.