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NATS privatisation scuppers Prestwick PFI scheme

THE £600M Private Finance Initiative scheme to construct the Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre at Prestwick is set to be cancelled following this week's Government decision to partially privatise the National Air Traffic Services.

A consortium of Bovis and Lockheed Martin had been selected as preferred bidder for the scheme 15 months ago. But a spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed on Monday that as a result of the partial privatisation it will try to drop the PFI deal.

'We have said all along that PFI is not the right way to go ahead for a safety critical operation,' she said.

Under the new NATS structure, 51% of the shares are expected to be held by private investors, with the remaining 49% staying with the Government. A golden share will give the Government overall safety control.

A spokesman for Bovis said the company would be 'disappointed' to lose the 25 year concession agreement. He added: 'We've put a lot of work into the project and believe we have a lot of knowledge and experience that will stand us in good stead if the project goes ahead by other means.'

Construction value is put at £125M, with a further £125M to be spent on software. A delay of up to 18 months is expected while the privatisation takes place.

The CAA had delayed signing the original PFI contract due to software problems at the new National Air Traffic Control centre at Swanwick, also built by a Bovis/Lockheed Martin consortium.

Matthew Jones

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