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Trafalgar lands Lisbon bridge project: UK group shares in pounds 550m contract to ease congestion in Portuguese capital

A CONSORTIUM led by Trafalgar House, the engineering and shipping group, has been awarded a pounds 550m contract to build a bridge in Lisbon, to be financed and operated by the private sector.

The bridge is intended to ease congestion on the existing crossing over the Tagus river in the Portuguese capital. The consortium will also take on the operation of the present bridge for up to 33 years, after which both will be returned to the government.

Governments are increasingly putting infrastructure projects out to private tender. In Britain, Trafalgar House already operates the Dartford Bridge, opened in 1992, while the second Severn crossing and the bridge from the Scottish mainland to the Isle of Skye are being built and financed by the private sector. Other private sector projects including a second Forth crossing, the Birmingham relief road and the west coast rail line are also under consideration. Trafalgar's Portuguese contract is the first it has won since announcing its intention to boost its involvement in infrastructure projects handled by the private sector. It is already working on construction of a crossing in Hong Kong, but that is being financed by the government.

Construction of the Tagus bridge will start next February and is due for completion by April 1988. Including financing, it is expected to cost more than pounds 685m. That will be partly funded by an ecu330m (pounds 225m) grant from the European Union, and the European Investment Bank is expected to provide up to 40 per cent of the loan finance.

The cost will also be funded by tolls on both the bridges.

Chase Investment Bank which, with Schroders, helped to put together the financing package, said that as the EIB was not prepared to take on any of the risk, other banks were providing guarantees.

Trafalgar House will have 24.8 per cent of the project as will Campenon Bernard, the French group. The five Portuguese consortium members will have 50.4 per cent between them.

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