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Big interest in Portsmouth PFI roads


THIRTY THREE contractors and consultants are interested in bidding for Portsmouth City Council's innovative private finance scheme for urban road maintenance.

The council is putting its entire network of 420km of road into the PFI scheme which will run for 25 years.

Shortlisted candidates will be issued with bid documents in October for submission by February next year.

Portsmouth began developing its scheme two years ago (NCE 11 November 1999) to escape a 'relentless downward spiral' of spending on patchwork repairs.

Under the deal, capital investment of £33.8M and routine maintenance spending will be paid back in installments by the council with deductions made according to availability of road.

Achieving agreed road space targets would attract rebates for the council.

Two councils in the Midlands are also understood to be considering PFI road maintenance projects.

Meanwhile, next week's Association of Municipal Engineers conference will be told that there is no satisfactory measure for local road condition. Expensive and slow road scanner or deflectograph readings reveal underlying failure for 30% of roads cleared by Coarse Visual Inspection, NCE was told by director of development services at South Tyneside Borough Council Douglas Pigg.

'We need research to develop a better objective measure to ensure that maintenance spending leads to reduced accidents and better road surfaces.'

Better measures are also needed for PFI projects he added, because it will be difficult for bidders to know the precise condition of the roads that they are buying into.

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