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In the UK no other public infrastructure project is bigger than the highly controversial Crossrail link running between East and West London. And it is going to be keeping law firms all over the City busy for years to come.
Ashurst has been instructed to advise Cross London Rail Links, the commercial company that is a 50-50 joint venture between Transport for London and the Department for Transport (DfT). Ashurst projects head Mark Elsey and planning and public sector head Tony Curnow are the firm's lead partners for the project.
Linklaters was recently announced as the firm that had won the mandate to advise the DfT on its role as Government sponsor in the project. But that appointment has not been without controversy, with The Lawyer exclusively revealing that Linklaters has a conflict of interest, as it is advising several objectors to the Crossrail Bill. The magic circle firm has managed to resolve the problem by passing its objecting clients to a different firm.
The Linklaters team, led by projects partner Fiona Hobbs, is clearly excited by the prospect of the work. "I can't imagine any other nfrastructure project you would want to be involved with in the UK at the moment," says Hobbs. "But that may all change when you're on site picking through a hole somewhere," she adds.
The project is slated for completion in 2015 and the Crossrail Hybrid Bill is not expected to become law until sometime in mid-2007.
There is hardly a law firm in the City that is not going to have a role on the project as it goes through the various stages of construction.
The bill is currently before a select committee of the House of Commons, which will hear from the objectors. Bircham Dyson Bell's head of projects Robbie Owen has secured instructions from nearly 100 of the 358 objectors. Parliamentary agents Sharpe Pritchard and Vizards Tweedie also have significant numbers of clients objecting to the bill.