Prison building boosts PFI

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The Government's Private Finance Initiative received a double boost yesterday as two new prison and rail schemes were given the go-ahead.

Transport executives in Manchester announced that Altram, a consortium including the construction group John Laing, has been selected as the preferred bidder for a pounds 100m Metrolink extension.

Kvaerner, the Norwegian shipping and engineering group which took over Trafalgar House earlier this year, meanwhile announcd that it is to build a pounds 30m PFI prison in Nottinghamshire.

The Manchester Metrolink extension to Salford Quays and Eccles is expected to be operational by 1999 and will carry 6 million passengers a year. The consortium, which also includes Ansaldo Transport and Serco Group, will also take over operation of the existing Metrolink system from Bury to Altrincham and through to Manchester city centre.

Roger Hall, a director of projects for Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, said it now needed government approval for a grant funding package to allow formal contracts to be signed.

The Metrolink system involves trams running on old rail track. The extension is expected to bring pounds 60m of benefits to the local area and reduce car journeys by around one million a year.

The prison project at Lowdham Grange, eight miles east of Nottingham, is the third to be built and run under the PFI and will house 500 category B inmates. The consortium that will operate the new jail, Premier Prison Services, is made up of Serco and Wackenhut Corrections (UK). It has been awarded a 25-year contract.

The campus-style prison, due to open in 1998, will also feature a workshop complex, two housing blocks and a sports and educational complex.