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The race to build private prisons in the UK hotted up this week when Trafalgar House said it had formed a joint venture with US prison manager Wackenhut Corporation.The new company, called Premier Custodial Development, will bid for the finance, design and construction of private prisons in a market worth around £300 million so far.PCD is only the second joint venture to target prisons.UK Detention Services - which brings together Mowlem, Sir Robert McAlpine and Corrections Corporation of America - pioneered the work in the UK.With prequalification of the first two prisons this week, other contractors are moving in.Tarmac has teamed up with Group Four, although it has yet to set up a joint venture company.A Tarmac spokesman said: 'We are working with Group Four and we will be entering expressions of interest for both prisons.'Tenders for the prisons, in Liverpool and Bridgend, will be invited in the spring.Other contractors, including Kyle Stewart, also hope to enter the market.A Kyle Stewart spokesman said: 'We are in active discussions with a group to form a joint venture.'The Government's private prison plans involve six prisons and five young offenders' institutions.But contractors face the problem that there are very few prison operators.And contractors cannot go it alone because consortia tend to be operator-led, as management and operation of the prisons is part of the contract.A source at one national contractor hoping to enter the prison sector said: 'Operators are few and far between.'There are under 10 and they have to undergo rigorous approval by the Home Office.'Two operators, who have yet to tie the knot with a contractor partner, are Securicor and the French company Sodexho, which has a British subsidiary, Mancare.They are both currently in discussions with contractors. CONSTRUCTION NEWS