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Teams eye £1bn rail bonanza

Consortia line up to win power supply upgrades in southern region but infrastructure schemes face massive delays and inquiries

NETWORK Rail is poised to let work worth £1 billion to upgrade power supplies across the southern region.

Industry insiders said this week the rail operator had lined up Mowlem/ ABB, United Utilities/JacksonEve, Amec/Siemens and a Balfour Beatty/ Atkins/Seeboard team to share the upgrade contracts across inner London, Kent, Sussex and Wessex.

A Fluor Daniel-led team and an Alstom/Parsons Brinckerhoff/Emcor consortium are understood to have missed out.

The contracts will involve the improvement of power supplies, stations and depot facilities to allow the introduction of up-to-date rolling stock by the end of 2004.

A Network Rail spokesman said: 'None of the contracts have been awarded yet. We anticipate letting them in the next three weeks.'

But the news came as rail contractors found themselves facing a swathe of cutbacks to major projects following the Strategic Rail Authority's publication of its 2003 Strategic Plan for the network last week.

The £500 million East London Line extension has been left in limbo following 'concerns over affordability', along with infrastructure upgrades to the South Central network.

The SRA's managing director Jim Steer added that the £2 billion Thameslink 2000 project in central London could be delayed by up to four years after the Government dismissed proposals for the scheme last week.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister criticised the SRA's plans for new concourses at London Bridge and Blackfriars stations, as well as proposals for restoring the Borough Market conservation area.

Mr Steer said: 'This is a devastating blow as we have basically been told to go back to the drawing board.

'You can anticipate that there will be a lengthy public inquiry into any new plans so our best estimate is that it will take another four years to get where we are now.'

SRA chairman Richard Bowker warned of a 'more targeted' approach to renewals across the network to cope with a £312 million budget cut over the next three years.

He said: 'It is crucial that everybody realises we must get on top of costs if we are going to have a good network. We cannot expect the Government to keep writing the cheques indefinitely.

'Tough decisions are not always universally popular but they are right nevertheless. There will be more in 2003.'