By: CHRIS GRAEME
THE GOVERNMENT has admitted that it could end the exclusive concession licence granted to Lusoponte for the eventual administration and exploitation of Lisbon’s projected new Chelas-Barreiro bridge across the River Tejo.
The new bridge would have to be built in order to link road and rail services to the New Lisbon International Airport (NAL) – see related articles on page 11.
The government has, according to various sources, decided to throw the management and exploitation of the bridge to competitive tendering which means that foreign and national companies will be invited to bid for the design, construction and running of the bridge.
The concession contract signed between the Portuguese state and Lusoponte has an exclusivity clause for the financial exploitation of any road crossing across the Tejo be it bridge or tunnel, from Vila Franca de Xira.
However, the government’s legal teams in conjunction with the Procurator-General of the Republic and Ministry of Public Works and RAVE (Rede Ferroviária de Alta Velocidade SA) – a government company set up for the planning and implementation of the TGV high speed rail link – are trying to find legal ways of ending the Lusoponte exclusivity clause in the agreement.
A government source told the business daily newspaper Diário Economico that “we will advance with an international public competitive bid for both the rail and road links across the Tejo to the airport, not only for its construction but also in its financial management.”
This would mean that the stretch of road would be subject to a system of tolls. The source also said that the government would have to put the contract out to competitive tendering in order not to break European Union competition laws.
Lusoponte, which has been managing both the Vasco da Gama and 25 Abril bridges for several years, has yet to comment on the government’s position but is said to have hired a team of lawyers to fight its case that the initial exclusivity agreement should stand.
The alternative to a legal battle is for the government to enter into direct negotiations with Lusoponte and pay compensation, which the Minister of Public Works, Mário Lino, mentioned at a luncheon sponsored by the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
The Lusoponte exclusivity clause was a condition established by the Portuguese state in order to attract the participation of companies and private consortia in international competitive tendering bids launched under the so-called BOT Regime (Build, Operate and Transfer) needed to construct the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
It was one of the first Public-Private Partnership construction projects in the country and solved the state’s lack of public money then to finance the massive 897 million euro project.
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