The government is examining plans to part-fund the £5bn M25 widening PFI scheme, should the Connect Plus consortium fail to secure all the money it needs from investors.
The Highways Agency was quick to say that: "The M25 DBFO contract is not on hold. We remain confident of a successful outcome, and start of work on widening the M25 is still programmed for April 2009."
However, the startling effects of the credit crunch may have made potential investors wary.
A Highways Agency spokesperson said: "Connect Plus, our preferred bidder, is in constructive and regular dialogue with the potential funding banks and we know they are keen to participate. Our aim is to see this stage of the project to a successful conclusion as soon as we can."
But: "Co-funding by Government is one option being considered. No decision has been made, and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."
The contract is not awarded until PFI bidding has completed.
PFI bidding was due to close towards the end of 2009, but the Connect Plus consortium comprising Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Atkins and Egis Projects revised the deadline to 'early 2009'.
Balfour Beatty this morning said it was 'confident' it would close the M25 and three other PFI shemes before the first half of 2009.
Should Connect Plus fail to complete funding then the government could use taxpayer money to plug the shortfall and expedite the contract award.
Work on the DBFO is due to begin in April.