Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that the Riverlinx consortium, comprising of Aberdeen Standard Investments, BAM PPP PGGM, Cintra, Macquarie Capital and SK Engineering & Construction (SK E&C), has been nominated as the preferred bidder to build the £1bn, 11.5m i.d. twin-bore Silvertown Tunnel – a new river crossing under the Thames in east London.
The 1.4km long tunnel, which is set to be open in 2025, will link the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks together and effectively eliminate the serious congestion and reduce the associated environmental impacts caused by miles of standing traffic around the Blackwall Tunnel area. It is also the first permanent road crossing to be constructed across the River Thames east of Tower Bridge since the QE2 Bridge at Dartford opened in October 1991.
Following an extensive tender process, the Riverlinx consortium have now been nominated as preferred bidder to complete detailed design and build the Silvertown Tunnel. The project will be procured through a Design, Build, Finance and Maintain contract, with payments by TfL starting only once the tunnel is open and available for use. TfL will also be able to reduce payments should the tunnel not meet certain key standards, such as availability for use by traffic and physical condition.
Funding the project this way not only shifts financial risks onto the private sector, but also incentivises them to deliver the scheme as efficiently as possible. It also reflects the fact that TfL receives no ongoing investment for roads from the Government – and that from 2021, the £500m Vehicle Excise Duty paid by Londoners and collected by central Government will nearly all be invested in roads outside the capital. This, along with the fact that TfL’s funding arrangements with Government are currently only certain until March 2021, means it has no dedicated income stream to pay for capital roads projects like this.
Throughout the Summer, the consortium will work to confirm financial arrangements with lenders in respect to the project and set up the supply chain. Only once these are all agreed will TfL award them the contract for the project. Construction and maintenance costs will be covered via a user charge on both the new tunnel and the existing Blackwall Tunnel, which will also help to manage traffic demand and journey reliability and ensure predicted air quality improvements are delivered. This user charge is a legal requirement as part of the planning approvals and therefore will need to be implemented when the tunnel opens. The exact charge levels for various types of vehicles using the tunnel will be decided closer to the opening date.