NETWORK RAIL has fired the starting gun for more than £500 million of civils works as the rail operator seeks to upgrade its telecoms network.
The company is due to send out tenders to 15 contractors for the deal, which involves installing and refurbishing cabling over the 16,000 km network as well as building work and mast construction.
Industry insiders said that Nuttall, Birse, McNicholas Construction, Laing O'Rourke, Skanska, Carillion, Mowlem, First Engineering and Alfred McAlpine were among those expected to pitch.
Network Rail has embarked on a £1.8 billion programme to upgrade its communications from an analogue to a digital system by 2012 to comply with EC directives.
It is understood that Network Rail is likely to divide the network into three regions, with two successful bidders being appointed in two-year deals for each region at the end of June.
The overall scheme was originally advertised in the Official Journal with a value of £581 million, but a source said this was likely to be scaled back.