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A HANDFUL of heavyweight law firms are gearing themselves up for the next phase of the battle for the Government's prized privately financed road schemes.
Baker & McKenzie, McKen-na & Co, Linklaters & Paines, Freshfields and Scottish firm McGrigor Donald are all acting for consortia which have won places on a shortlist to submit tenders for four road schemes.
This is the first time the Government has used the DBFO (Design, Build, Finance and Operate) system of injecting private capital into its roads programme. Private consortia will build the roads in return for "shadow tolls" - government payments linked to the volume of traffic using the new roads.
Baker & McKenzie partner Tim Steadman, acting for National Road Operators in its bid, says: "I'm absolutely delighted our client has been shortlisted.
"Both construction firms and lawyers are desperately keen to get in at the ground floor on these privately funded infrastructure schemes.
Steadman says Baker & McKenzie has worked on two privately funded motorways in Hungary, based on the Build Operate Transfer system.
He says legal work for UK DBFO projects could span the commercial, planning and environmental, construction and banking departments.
Linklaters & Paines partner Simon Burch, acting for Connect in its bid to upgrade the A1, says British DBFOs are part of an international trend. "As governments run out of money they turn to private finance for infrastructure projects, whether it is power, roads, water and sewage or transport."
Denton Hall is acting for the Department of Transport after winning a beauty parade in June. It will continue to advise the Government until tenders from the consortia are returned next year, individual contracts are negotiated and the results reviewed
The projects are a new M1-A1 link road bypassing Leeds, an upgrading of the A1 to motorway standard from Alconbury to Peterborough, improving the A419/A417 trunk route between Swindon and Gloucester and the A69 between Carlisle and Newcastle upon Tyne.