Network Rail has kicked off a review of its five-strong legal panel which could be worth up to £70m over its five-year lifespan.

The company chose to renew the panel for a further two years in August 2017 which sees the existing structure run until 1 April 2019.

In the last review, Network Rail reduced its legal panel from 13 firms to five though the merger between Dentons and Maclay Murray & Spens in July could since have seen the number reduced to four.

The panel is set to cover the breadth of Network Rail’s legal matters, including construction, dispute resolution, property and several other areas.

Network Rail has indicated that it is looking for firms to advise it on corporate functions and devolved route businesses in its “Control Period 6”.

This review will be Network Rail general counsel Stuart Kelly’s first in the role since replacing former legal boss Suzanne Wise. Kelly joined from Severn Trent in 2015, where he had filled the GC role. Wise left the rail company to join Japan Tobacco International (JTI) as senior vice president for corporate development in March 2017, reporting directly to company CEO Eddie Pirard.

Network Rail general counsel for route businesses Dan Kayne will lead a team of 26 lawyers during the procurement process on Kelly’s behalf.

Kelly said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the legal market to demonstrate to us they share our vision of delivering a great service to our customers – that they are forward thinking in terms of their offering and, perhaps most importantly, they want to be our partners in supporting the business to effectively deliver a growing, reliable, safe and affordable railway.”

One of Kelly’s last significant contributions to Severn Trent was to abandon the company’s panel arrangement in favour of naming legacy Eversheds as the water supplier’s sole provider shortly before leaving.

Network Rail is open to a “wide range of delivery proposals”, suggesting a sole provider model could be an option.

The Department of Transport (DfT) and Crown Commercial Service (CSS) concluded their own rail panel review in June, naming eight firms to its two-tiered £50m panel which will run until 2020.