The coronavirus pandemic has seen millions of workers furloughed, businesses threatened, and an unprecedented rise in redundancies.
However, there’s been good news in the Kent and Essex area where the Lower Thames Crossing project promises to create thousands of jobs, double road capacity, and ease congestion.
Here’s what it could mean for you.
Coronavirus has raised unemployment and damaged the UK economy
Back in July, the BBC reported that the winding down of furlough – originally due for October 2020 – could lead to 1.2 million Britons being unemployed by Christmas. As companies reopened during the summer it was hoped the worst was over, but two more lockdowns have followed.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirms that from September to November 2020, around 1.72 million people were unemployed, an increase of more than 400,000 on the same period in 2019.
The furlough scheme is now due to end on 30 April 2021. Although the UK avoided a double-dip recession, November’s restrictions hit the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) once again. According to the Guardian, GDP reached 8.5% below its pre-pandemic level toward the end of last year.
With the government’s road map out of lockdown announced, those on furlough will be looking to get back to work in the next few months, but more redundancies can’t be ruled out, and the job market will be overcrowded.
The Lower Thames Crossing will create jobs
- What is the “Lower Thames Crossing”?
The project is the largest undertaking on Britain’s road system since the construction of the M25 in the 1970s. The crossing is due to travel under the Thames between East Tilbury, Essex, and Gravesend in Kent.
Two separate tunnels will be built, 2.6 miles long, each with two lanes and an anticipated speed limit of 70 miles per hour.
New Civil Engineer reports that the contract is expected to be awarded in 2022, with main works on the project due to begin in around 18 months.
- How many jobs will it create?
Construction is expected to last six years, during which time it will employ more than 22,000 people across construction, engineering, catering, and IT sectors, among others.
Additional roads and infrastructure, including bridges and viaducts, will also be needed to link the tunnel to the current system.
When it is finished, it will ease congestion, cut journey times, and – according to Highways England – divert over 13 million vehicles away from the Dartford Crossing each year. It will mainly serve those living in Basildon, Havering, Thurrock, and Brentwood.
- Aiding the coronavirus recovery
Matt Palmer, Executive Director of the project, recently told Highways England that the crossing “will add billions to the local economy by connecting people to jobs and businesses to customers.”
At a time when the UK economy is struggling under the weight of coronavirus borrowing, it will play a key role in the region’s economic recovery. With unemployment high and worries of redundancies still rife, the raft of new jobs will bring hope to many.
Palmer went on to further outline his plan for the project: “Our aim [is] to create local jobs, support local businesses, and nurture the next generation of talent.” The project aims to create hundreds of apprenticeships and graduate places offering free training to local businesses.
The road map out of lockdown
As the Thames road-tunnel project gears up, the government has announced its own road map, designed to help lead England out of lockdown.
The four-step plan could see non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms, and outdoor hospitality reopening on 12 April. Five weeks later, on 17 May, two households are expected to be allowed to meet indoors and potentially in pubs too, though in line with the “rule of six”.
Under the ambitious plans, introduced in part due to the success of the vaccine rollout, all restrictions could be lifted by 21 June.
Although some measures, such as social distancing, will remain in place for the foreseeable future, 21 June could mark a milestone in the journey out of lockdown. Those parts of the economy and entertainment sector that have remained closed throughout, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Restrictions on wedding and funeral numbers could also be lifted.
How Fingerprint Financial Planning can help you
The last twelve months have been tough across many sectors, from casual workers in the hospitality and gig economies to business owners.
Along with the jobs created by the Thames Lower Crossing, the road map out of lockdown gives us all a reason to be optimistic in 2021.
If you or a loved one are struggling with the threat of redundancy, finding budgeting difficult, or worry about how robust your long-term financial plans are in the face of this crisis, Fingerprint Financial Planning can help.
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This article is for information only. Please do not act based on anything you might read in this article. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation which is subject to change.