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Further delay to £5.5bn M25 widening

The £5.5bn M25 widening project has been delayed for at least a further week, with work now due to begin in May, and Treasury funding has still not been ruled-out.

According to a Highways Agency spokesperson, more banks have signed-up to fund the M25 widening than are necessary, but the winning Connect Plus consortium are waiting for the credit committees of those banks to give final approval for funds.

Some had predicted that the final announcement for the M25 widening to begin would be made by Chancellor Alistair Darling in his budget statement tomorrow. This now seems unlikely.

The start date of 27 April has been abandoned, and work will now not begin until early May.

A Highways Agency spokesperson said: “Although we are still in the funding competition, we expect financial close to happen soon, with the earliest date for award of contract being early May.

“The start of works date of the 27th April 2009 has always been subject to the award of contract - however we expect to start work soon after the contract is awarded (still in the Spring - as we’ve always said). We can’t confirm the exact start of works date until we know when final negotiations with Connect Plus and the lenders will be concluded.”

She also confirmed that: “Connect Plus has now received confirmation from a number of banks that they have received credit approval to provide funds for the project, and the total offered now exceeds the amount required.”

But: “The Agency is retaining the option to provide government co-funding in case it is needed to meet the programme - i.e. in case one or more banks drop out before the contract is awarded.”

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