Projects practices line up for bite of massive road scheme

Projects practices across the City are gearing up for a lengthy bid process as five consortia vie for the lucrative £1.5bn M25 widening project.

The UK’s largest PPP for roads has so far seen work for Allen & Overy (A&O), CMS Cameron McKenna and Linklaters, although The Lawyer understands Ashurst is also involved.

A division of Australia’s Macquarie Bank is also expected to submit a tender, although it is understood that it has yet to appoint external counsel, creating a scramble among the remaining project lawyers without instructions.

Project practices understood to be seeking a role include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith and Lovells.

Denton Wilde Sapte has again been instructed by the Highways Agency to advise on the ‘design build finance operate’ contract, which will see 63 miles of the M25 widened to four lanes in both directions over an eight-year construction period.

A&O, led by David Lee, is advising a consortium of Amey and Laing O’Rourke, while Camerons partner Trevor Butcher is leading the team advising the Vinci consortium, made up of Vinci, Carillion and Costain.

Linklaters has secured instructions from a consortium led by US project management company Fluor and Australia’s Transurban, with Stuart Rowson leading the team, while Ashurst is understood to be advising the Skanska and Balfour Beatty consortium.

The invitation to submit an outline proposal process used by the Highways Agency is expected to close in September 2006, where three consortia will be invited to submit a full tender. Construction is expected to start in early 2008.

The successful bidder will also be responsible for the future operation and maintenance of the M25, intersections and the Dartford River Crossing for 30 years.