Eight firms win places on government's new £50m rail legal services panel

The UK government has appointed eight firms to a new panel for to the Department for Transport’s rail division, with Linklaters, DLA Piper and Ashurst among those winning places.

The new panel, which has an estimated value of £50m, has been set up as part of the government’s new legal services framework. The previous arrangement, which expired earlier this year, has been replaced by four new panels, of which the rail legal services panel is one.

The eight firms to make it onto the new rail panel are Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Linklaters, Osborne Clarke (OC), Norton Rose Fulbright and Stephenson Harwood.

The firms have been appointed for a three-year term from 31 May this year, with the option to extend by one year.

The panel is split into two tiers, with law firms in tier one – Addleshaws, Ashurst, DLA and Eversheds – providing advice on major, long-term transactions such as rail franchise competitions and other highly complex projects. According to tender documents, tier one law firms will have to “devote considerable resource to the project over a multiyear period of time or where the instructions relate to particularly complex issues”.

The firms in tier two – Linklaters, OC, Norton Rose Fulbright and Stephenson Harwood – will handle less complex and resource-intensive transactions, such as instructions relating to less complex contractual changes.

The tender process, which kicked off in May last year, was handled by the Crown Commercial Service, the government’s procurement arm.

The process was run in three stages. The first stage required firms to complete a questionnaire that assessed their professional capabilities and financial standing. The second evaluated their suitability (weighted at 70%) and price (weighted at 30%), with firms required to submit a suitability questionnaire. Twelve firms then progressed to the third stage of the process, which looked at factors such as compatibility, quality and pricing.

The new rail panel was previously part of the legal services framework that ran from February 2013 until the end of January this year. The legal services framework was structured under eight ‘lots’. Six of these lots have now been combined to form the three new panels, with the remaining two – finance and regulation, and major projects – extended until 31 January 2018.

The first of new panels to be announced was the general legal services panel, which is worth an estimated value of £400m, with Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and PwC winning new appointments.

The other panel yet to be reviewed is the finance and highly complex panel, which is due to be announced in October 2017.