Latvia comes to Croydon to learn lessons ahead of street lighting PPP

Credit: Partnerships Bulletin

Officials from the City of Riga and Croydon Borough Council held an “experience exchange” on street lighting projects in another show of international appetite for UK PFI expertise.

Riga is currently in the early stages of developing a business case for using a PPP to deliver an up-to 45,000-asset street lighting programme, replacing nearly two thirds of the Latvian capital's ageing system.

Croydon and UK government officials, including Department of Transport's PFI portfolio manager Michelle Zamyadi, and advisors from Local Partnerships, shared the story of their highly successful street lighting programme that has seen a Skanska-John Laing team (now Milestone) deliver over 40,000 street lighting replacements across Croydon and Lewisham since 2011. The concession will run until 2036, and is now owned by Equitix. Local Partnerships advised Croydon and Lewisham on the refinancing of the deal earlier this year.

Speaking on their experience, Croydon officials hailed the model for being able to provide an almost guaranteed level of service and successfully transferring the risk, while also noting that using a PPP/PFI model will make changes to scope potentially more difficult than other models.

In terms of lessons learnt, advisors from Local Partnerships stressed that having a clear plan for handback, contract management resourcing and public relations are “absolutely
key”.

Croydon’s team noted that it was “the right time to procure” this type of project, pointing to the valuable potential use of lighting systems for technological innovations such as EV
charging and telecoms.

Riga’s officials commented that the discussion provided “invaluable experience”, highlighting the lessons learnt around the technologies implemented and the commercial approach.

The project would be the second PPP in Latvia, with the country’s Ministry of Transport having successfully closed the Kekava Bypass project in 2021.

While only at the beginning of the country’s PPP plans, one official noted: “We have a lot of ideas.”

The meeting was another show of the UK's highly regarded expertise in privately financed infrastructure, as shown by the migration of numerous British PPP veterans to the Middle East and the recent agreement by the UK government to help support Kenyan PPPs.