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Major structures taken out of Portsmouth's PFI highways contract

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MAJOR STRUCTURES are expected to be excluded from Portsmouth's pioneering privately financed highway maintenance contract, the city council said this week.

Bridges on the M275 route into the city will probably be excluded from the agreement because their strategic importance means they are likely to attract government funding for vital maintenance.

'It's a question of who takes the risk, ' said Portsmouth assistant city engineer Jim Comport.

'If a defect developed on a few key parts of the network, we are confident we would receive central government support.'

Contractor Colas last week beat Amey to become preferred bidder for the contract.

Under the arrangement, which should be finalised in June, Colas subsidiary Ensign Highways will take over all aspects of highways maintenance in the city for the next 25 years.

Colas said the deal was worth £500M, but as the project is at preferred bidder stage would not be drawn on the financial details of the package. Seventeen council staff will transfer to Ensign at the end of February in preparation for formal contract award.

Comport said the project's main benefit is the release of crucial investment to bring the city's roads up to standard.

'This means we will be in a position to introduce a proper road maintenance strategy and end years of under investment.'

The deal will make more cash available for highway maintenance and includes a long term planned approach so the money is spent much more effectively.

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