Linklaters picked for rail franchise renegotiations

Linklaters & Alliance is working on a “substantial” contract to renegotiate the passenger rail franchises after being appointed external legal adviser to the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA).

The firm beat Clifford Chance, Eversheds and Nabarro Nathanson in a beauty parade to win the work.

The government body charged with handling the franchises was criticised in 1997 for not using a competitive tender when it appointed Linklaters to work on the privatisation of the railways between 1993 and 1996.

And it was slated for failing to set a cap on the law firm's fees. Linklaters ended up making more than £13m for its work on the sale of the first three rail franchises.

Linklaters partner John Ellard is leading the current team advising on what is effectively the amalgamation of the old British Rail Board (BRB) and the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF), which monitors and manages the 25 UK passenger train franchises, 18 of which are going to be reviewed.

The SSRA will remain a shadow body until the relevant statutory legislation is passed. Industry experts expect this to happen next year as part of a new transport act.

Ellard says: “It's a very substantial rail contract.

“We expect that there will be some very large projects.”

Terence Jenner, head of legal at SSRA, says the firm has already begun work on rail franchise replacement, which involves the renegotiation of contracts.

Jenner says he expects to add three more lawyers to the legal team of three in the near future.

Eversheds' Birmingham office has been confirmed as the SSRA's adviser on franchise management.

Birmingham-based head of commercial Anne Harris is advising the SSRA on the day-to-day management of existing franchises.

She says she expects there will be intense legal work over the millennium period.