Key decisions expected on HS2, Stonehenge Tunnel and Lower Thames Crossing early in 2022 

Key decisions on major infrastructure projects are expected early on in 2022. Before we reach Spring, National Highways should have finally resubmitted it’s Lower Thames Crossing planning application; transport secretary Grant Shapps should have redetermined his decision on Stonehenge Tunnel plans and the bill to start construction of HS2’s Phase 2b should have made its way through parliament. Meanwhile, a decision on the future of the UK’s nuclear power projects would also be welcome, with key decisions to be made on plans for Wylfa and Sizewell.

And last but by no means least, the opening date for the Elizabeth line will hopefully be unveiled early next year before the link finally opens its shiny new stations to passengers.

Lower Thames Crossing

We start cautiously with the assumption that National Highways will resubmit its Lower Thames Crossing planning application early in 2022. The caution issued here is because sharp-eyed NCE readers will note that our 2021 preview also predicted that a planning application would be shortly forthcoming. A planning application for the crossing between Kent and Essex was pulled in November 2020 with the Planning Inspectorate poised to reject it. At the time, National Highways bosses told NCE that the application would be resubmitted within 120 days[1] which would have seen the plans go in in March last year at the latest.

That was then delayed until the end of 2021, which was again pushed back to early 2022. Despite the hold-up to the planning application, procurement for the three main works packages has gathered pace and contracts are on track to be awarded during the middle of the year. The shortlist for LTC’s GBP2bn tunnelling contract was announced in April[2] last year.

It includes a joint venture between Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial Construction and Vinci (BFV JV); a joint venture between Bouygues Travaux Publics and J Murphy & Sons, supported by Mott McDonald and Ove Arup and Partners; and a joint venture between Dragados and Hochtief Infrastructure. Meanwhile, in September it was announced that five bidders had been shortlisted for the two LTC roads contracts, worth a combined GBP1.9bn.[3] Those shortlisted for the GBP600M Kent Roads contract are BFV JV; Costain; a joint venture between Kier Highways and Eiffage Genie Civil and Skanska Construction UK.

Shortlisted for the GBP1.2bn Roads North of the Thames contract are Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering and the Kier Eiffage JV.

Stonehenge Tunnel

From one embattled National Highways tunnel to another, the future of the controversial Stonehenge Tunnel is delicately poised. Transport secretary Grant Shapps is currently in the process of “re-determining” his decision on National Highways’ planning application for the Stonehenge Tunnel after a High Court judge ruled his original decision to approve the scheme as “unlawful” as he failed to take into account the environmental impact of the scheme in relation to government commitments to reducing carbon emissions. As part of the process Shapps is also considering the merits of a longer tunnel to mitigate the impact on the World Heritage Site.[4]

It is unclear when the decision will be made, however the scheme’s procurement has been put on ice and it now looks increasingly unlikely that the project will begin construction before the end of the current investment period draws to a close in 2025.

HS2 Western leg

The long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan committed GBP17bn to the creation of the western leg which would extend HS2 from Crewe to Manchester. According to the IRP, passengers could see completion of the western leg (AKA Phase 2b) by the “early to mid 2040s”. In August, HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said the bill for the western leg is scheduled to be deposited in Parliament in “early 2022 or sooner if possible”.[5]

And, according to Pinsent Masons partner Robbie Owen action is now required to get legislation for the western leg through Parliament before the next general election. “The government now has a big task on its hands in delivering a roadmap for rail that will meaningfully contribute to its levelling up agenda. As the only major rail project given the green light, all eyes will be on how the western leg of HS2 from Crewe to Manchester will be delivered and quite how it will help with levelling up,” he said.

“If the government is to focus its rail investment in the North West, it needs to prioritise streamlined and efficient planning and procurement processes, not least because judging by how long HS2 phase 1 took, the western leg is unlikely to get through Parliament until mid-2024 at the earliest, which is just before the next scheduled general election.”

Sizewell C vs Wylfa

For much of 2020, the narrative has pitted the futures of Sizewell C and Wylfa against one another. The government has repeatedly committed to the creation of one more big nuclear project. And it looks Sizewell C is being lined up for that post.

However, with new proposals emerging for SMR technology at Wylfa it no longer looks to be a case of either or (or neither nor).[6] Both require government funding and government appetite, which on the face of it appears to be there. No doubt, 2022 will be an important year for backers of developments at both sites.

Crossrail  

The end is in sight for the blighted, battered and bruised Crossrail project.

After countless delays and numerous cost hikes, 2022 will (we are assured) be the year that the Elizabeth line welcomes passengers on board. When in 2022 remains to be somewhat seen. Pitched for a long time as “the first half of 2022” the opening date is expected become much clearer once the Christmas period has come and gone.

There is a potential funding gap of GBP150M or so still to overcome so there could yet be a final spanner placed in the works.

Other things to keep an eye on…

Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.[7]

References

  1. ^ At the time, National Highways bosses told NCE that the application would be resubmitted within 120 days (www.newcivilengineer.com)
  2. ^ The shortlist for LTC’s GBP2bn tunnelling contract was announced in April (www.newcivilengineer.com)
  3. ^ in September it was announced that five bidders had been shortlisted for the two LTC roads contracts, worth a combined GBP1.9bn. (www.newcivilengineer.com)
  4. ^ As part of the process Shapps is also considering the merits of a longer tunnel to mitigate the impact on the World Heritage Site. (www.newcivilengineer.com)
  5. ^ In August, HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said the bill for the western leg is scheduled to be deposited in Parliament in “early 2022 or sooner if possible”. (www.newcivilengineer.com)
  6. ^ However, with new proposals emerging for SMR technology at Wylfa it no longer looks to be a case of either or (or neither nor). (www.newcivilengineer.com)
  7. ^ To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here. (www.newcivilengineer.com)




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