NETWORK Rail has begun the race for its final regional framework deal for civils works.
The company has invited contractors to prequalify for its five-year deal in the southern region, worth an estimated £100 million. Nuttall is the current holder of the civils framework but its deal expires in September 2006.
Likely bidders to take Nuttall's crown include Galliford Try, Skanska, Mowlem, Alfred McAlpine, Kier, Mowlem and Murphy.
It is understood Network Rail will draw up a final shortlist of bidders in the autumn. But the eventual winner faces far more demanding conditions as Network Rail tries to knuckle down on contractors.
The southern deal currently includes all works but Network Rail is likely to cap the value of jobs under the framework at £500,000, as well as competitively tendering 30 per cent of the work.