Government unveils list of 50 public sector PFI projects

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The Government has identified 50 public sector projects with a capital value of pounds 5bn as priorities for completion under the Private Finance Initiative.

The schemes include a pounds 200m project to condense the top security GCHQ listening centre in Cheltenham on to one site, a pounds 180m refurbishment of the Ministry of Defence's Whitehall headquarters, a pounds 330m ticketing system for London Underground and a new pounds 140m hospital for Edinburgh.

A number of large schools programmes also feature on the list of "significant" schemes including a project to refurbish 38 primary and secondary schools in Glasgow.

However, the list contains only one road project - a pounds 125m scheme to upgrade the A13, known as the Thames Gateway.

Unveiling the list, Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster General, also disclosed that 30 schemes worth pounds 1.5bn had been signed off by the Treasury's private finance taskforce since Labour came to power last May. This brings the running total including the Channel Tunnel Rail Link to pounds 8.5bn. However, the Treasury has abandoned its formal target of completing pounds 14bn worth of PFI schemes by the end of next financial year.

Mr Robinson said the schemes had been selected because they were either big, high profile, ground-breaking or acted as models for how the PFI could be applied in particular areas of the public sector.

He played down fears that projects not featured on the list, such as the M8 motorway in Scotland, had been downgraded or would not get PFI backing. Mr Robinson denied that the collapse of London & Continental Railways' plan for the rail link - by far the biggest project attempted under the PFI - had in any way undermined the initiative.

Adrian Montague, the Dresdner Kleinwort Benson banker brought in last year to head up the taskforce, also disclosed that finance for PFI projects was now being raised through the private placement market in addition to bank debt and public bonds.

The Prudential has so far provided about pounds 200m for a range of projects including the Second Severn Crossing, the Dartford Bridge and the Skye crossing.

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