Announcing a firm timetable for inviting bids for the Weald and Downland, Bradford to Cumbria and South Midlands Network DBFOs, Mr Watts said: 'This will lead to the delivery of over£350 million of trunk road investment, including 20 bypasses and road improvement schemes.
'These contracts, which will transfer the management and operational responsibility for around 300 miles of trunk road to the private sector, are designed to ensure that the roads are operated and maintained to the very highest standards.'
Invitations to tender for each of the three projects will be issued to the successfully qualified tenderers who were announced in October.
Mr Watts added: 'I am confident that the tender process will run smoothly and both sides will build on the experience gained from the successful negotiations of the first eight DBFO projects.'
The Highways Agency expects to receive tenders from the competing consortia for each project about five months after the issue of invitations to tender and these bids will be the starting point for contract negotiations.
Assuming these negotiations with tenderers are successful, and the final offers received demonstrate good value for money, the Highways Agency can then expect to award contracts to the successful bidders during the first half of 1998.