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Silvertown project gets tunnel vision

Recently David Swarbrick, Managing Director – UK and Ireland of Invesis, visited its £1 billion Silvertown Tunnel project to assess progress and mark the official launch of the largest tunnel boring machine ever used in the UK. In the next few weeks, it will begin the underground delivery phase of a first-in-a-generation road route that will run under the Thames to relieve the heavy traffic and emissions burden of the 122-year-old Blackwall Tunnel.

Invesis is a key member of the Riverlinx consortium, taking its place alongside other world-leading infrastructure and transport investors including Cintra, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Macquarie Capital, and South Korea’s SK. The consortium will be responsible for operations and maintenance for the full 25-year project period. This is typical of the  Invesis’ long-term investment perspective, promising stability, continuity and patient capital.

The 1.4km twin-lane tunnel, linking North Greenwich and Silvertown for the first time, is due to be completed in Spring 2025. The wide-ranging and challenging venture includes meaningful social and environmental goals with the tunnel’s location within the extended Ultra Low Emission Zone, a dedicated bus lane in each direction for zero-emission buses, and the enhancement of adjacent public spaces intended to promote more walking and cycling.

Even during construction, air quality is being monitored and prioritised, with the river, rather than roads, being used for transporting materials wherever possible and the requirement that all on-site construction machinery meets the relevant Low Emission Zone standards.

The push on social issues includes the recruitment and training of more than 100 apprentices during the project lifetime (18 of whom are already in place) and many more employment opportunities for the local community, while the drive to create a truly inclusive workplace has not gone unnoticed. Swarbrick said, “it is tremendous to see the diversity of the project workforce. It has attracted people from all over the world with a huge number of ethnicities and languages represented.” He was also pleased to see that a significant  proportion of the workforce is female and reiterated the commitment to increase this further.

Swarbrick called the construction of the Silvertown Tunnel, “a really exciting project to be involved with.” He went on, “what’s important to me is the seeing the value that Invesis have added to this project, both in getting to financial close and now ensuring safe and high quality delivery – on time and on budget.”

That value comes through the company’s active role in the management and supervision of construction and operational stages, thanks to the secondment of experienced civil engineer Larry Mackey. He has daily oversight and responsibility for quality control and health and safety onsite. In addition, Invesis’ directors play an active role on the company’s board utilising their deep PPP and infrastructure experience

Invesis is pleased to be working alongside Wayss & Freytage Ingenieurbau AG  on the Silvertown Tunnel.  The two companies are already working together on the $5.4billion Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, Australia and are now targeting other  PPP tunneling opportunities globally including the $4.5 billion Great Western Highway in New South Wales, Australia and the €900 million D35 Highway in the Czech Republic.

In the meantime, the largest tunnel boring machine in the UK continues to make its journey under the River Thames towards hugely improved transport infrastructure for the capital’s rapidly growing population.

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