Welsh cousin of PFI could fund further projects

10/02/2020
Rhodri Clark

The Welsh Government is not ruling out using its novel Mutual Investment Model (MIM) to fund further transport projects, beyond the Hirwaun-Dowlais A465 dualling.

Procurement of contractors to finance, build and operate the Hirwaun-Dowlais dual carriageway (on the existing alignment) is due for completion this summer. The Welsh Government will make annual service payments over 30 years.

The MIM was developed in 2017 to enable Wales to dual the road and build schools and a cancer centre despite real-terms cuts in the Treasury’s block grant to Cardiff. Also, the Welsh Government earmarked much of its own borrowing for the £1.6bn M4 Relief Road at Newport, shelved last summer.

Former UK chancellor Philip Hammond banned new Private Finance Initiative schemes, but the Welsh Government believes the MIM, in which the public sector holds a minority stake, avoids the negatives of earlier Public Private Partnerships while incorporating benefits such as optimum risk allocation, whole-life costing and performance-based payments.

A spokesman said: 'As our capital budgets are under unprecedented pressures following a decade of UK Government-imposed austerity cuts, the MIM was developed to attract new investment to fund our ambitious programme.

'We will consider using the MIM to fund future infrastructure projects only once we have exhausted all conventional sources of capital funding, including using the borrowing powers of Welsh ministers and other bodies in Wales.'

The spokesman said the MIM contract would be different from the current A465 dualling between Brynmawr and Gilwern – hit by delays and cost increases – because the Welsh Government would not pay for the infrastructure until it is operational.

The risk of cost increases and programme delays would lie with the contractor, with penalties for non-performance.

The procurement involves 'competitive dialogue' between the government and bidders to identify technical solutions, as used for the Wales and Borders rail franchise which includes electrification.

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