FOUR consortia are working up bids for one of Belfast's biggest ever infrastructure contracts ? a £100 million deal to upgrade the city's sewerage.
The Belfast Sewers Project was launched last year by Water Service, part of Northern Ireland's Department for Regional Development. The department is embarking on a huge investment programme to bring the city's decaying sewers up to date and provide a modern system for 250,000 people in the greater Belfast area. The central area of the city still relies on two brick tunnels built in 1888.
Katharine Bryan, chief executive of Water Service, said: 'Many of the existing sewers in the Belfast area date form the Victorian era. This massive scheme will significantly improve the water quality in the Lagan and Blackstaff rivers, reduce the risk of flooding in the Belfast area and ensure compliance with stringent European Union environmental standards.' The lead teams on the four shortlisted bidders are Japanese contractor Nishimatsu, Murphy, French firm Bachy Soletanche and Morgan Est. The four have until the end of November to get their bids back to the client.
A winner will be chosen early next year. Work is due to start later that summer.
The job includes a 10.5 km tunnel up to 4m in diameter running under the city centre to a pumping station at Belfast Wastewater Treatment Works. It will also involve building a further 19 km of sewers, 26 stormwater tanks and the repair of 800 sewers. Water Service is hoping the step will cut pollution in the River Lagan and its tributaries by around 85 per cent.
A consortium of Atkins and Amec has already won a contract to the project manage the works. The entire scheme will take seven years to complete.