PRIVATE CONTRACTORS are to provide services to Britain's frontline troops in a ground breaking Ministry of Defence (MoD) deal.
From mid-2003 Challenger tanks will be transported wherever they are needed in the world, during conflicts as well as peace time, by the Fasttrax consortium led by Halliburton KBR.
Under the 20 year, £290M private finance initiative contract, Fasttrax will own, operate and maintain a fleet of 92 heavy equipment transporters (HETs).
Eighty 'sponsored reserve' drivers, employed by contractors but trained by the military, will be employed by Fasttrax to drive the HET fleet from bases in the UK, Germany and the Army's Canadian training grounds.
Fasttrax is to be paid a regular fee for the service by the MoD and takes the risk of how often it will need to swing into action 'We wanted to relieve stress on troops and free them for frontline duties as well as find a more cost effective way of moving our tanks, ' said a MoD spokesman.
The HET private finance deal is the first of a number of frontline contracts to be let this year including the UK's largest privately financed defence contract - a £13bn deal for air to air refuelling.
The decision to put support services out to the private sector follows concerted lobbying by army engineers and the private sector (NCE 5 May).