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MARKET REPORT

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Lib Dem scorns tube 'letter of comfort' ...
Lib Dem scorns tube 'letter of comfort'

Transport secretary Stephen Byers has been criticised for promising to issue a 'letter of comfort' to the companies chosen to run the Underground public/private partnership.

Liberal Democrat MP David Rendell said Mr Byers' letter will make a mockery of privatisation and means the taxpayer will end up footing the bill if it fails.

He said: 'This means the government, ie the taxpayer, will step in and pay if

the contract does not work out. Apparently the companies concerned would not go ahead without this letter which shows they see it as a very

risky business.'

The National Audit Office has told the Commons Public Accounts Committee Mr Byers had not given Parliament enough notice that he intends to issue the letter in line with regulations.

The transport secretary is required to give 14 days notice to the committee, but the late briefing and Easter break mean only four days was given.

A DTLR spokesman said: 'The comfort letter is not a guarantee, but it makes clear that London Underground would not stand by if there was a bill they couldn't meet. In those circumstances, Mr Byers would consider increasing

the grant.'

Amey makes lights work

Amey has won an£85m private finance initiative public lighting contract from Walsall MBC.

Working with Barclays European Infrastructure Fund, Amey will be responsible for the management and maintenance of all of Walsall's 26,000 lights in one of the first street lighting contracts tendered under PFI.

Within the first five years of the 25-year contract, the company will replace old lights.

Amey's chief executive Brian Staples said: 'This contract represents a further value-creating component in our

highly successful highways management business.'

ITNet in new London deal

Tower Hamlets LBC has awarded the contract for managing its core IT services to ITNet.

The two-year contract is worth£3.5m and includes mainframe operations, hardware maintenance and a help desk, which had been outsourced to other suppliers, including ICL.

ITNet director of sales and marketing Paul Johnson said: 'Tower Hamlets will receive one cohesive delivery, a higher level of service availability, improved quality and service level agreements.'

First student hall takeover

Jarvis is to take over Nottingham Trent University's student halls of residence in a deal worth around£16m. It is the first time a university has transferred nearly all its accommodation to the private sector.

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