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16Aug91 UK: EDITORIAL COMMENT - TRAFALGAR HOUSE AND ITALSTAT AWARDED CONTRACT TO BUILD BIRMINGHAM NORTHERN RELIEF ROAD.

It was Trafalgar House and the Italian company Italstat for whom the road finally tolled, and news of the award of the contract for the Birmingham Northern Relief Road duly put a few welcome pence on to the UK company's share price.It isn't northern Birmingham which stands to be relieved by the first of the Government's much-trumpeted private toll roads. The construction industry as a whole, even those companies which bid and lost, will be pleased that an idea which seems to have been an awful long time in the manifesto has finally got somewhere.But though the size of the contract is not to be sneezed at, and the list of potential toll roads offers the prospect of some future plans, the original criticism remains.A few toll roads are not going to solve the problems of chronic under-investment in our infrastructure and the involvement of the private sector is no substitute for a measured view of national and local infrastructure needs by central and local government.The work is welcome, but the policy is a sideshow.