Two PFI prison contracts are on hold because ministers are too busy reviewing with the UK's exposure to terrorism to approve the deals, according to the bidding consortiums.
The preferred bidders for the prisons in Ashford, west London, and Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, were due to have been announced on 14 September. But consortiums are still in the dark over their fate, and sources close to the deals believe that the developing global turmoil has distracted ministers.

A source said: "We're hoping for a decision imminently but we don't have a date we are working to. We're just waiting for the government."

Home secretary David Blunkett must approve the contracts, which are each worth £50-100m.

Three consortiums are bidding for both prisons. These are Premier Prisons and Skanska, Carillion and Group 4 and Interserve and UKDS.

Another consortium, comprising Costain and Securicor, is waiting to hear about Ashford.

We’re hoping for a decision but we don’t have a date. We’re just waiting Insider from a PFI consortium struggling to catch the attention of

A spokesperson for Premier Prisons confirmed that the announcement had been delayed.

These delays are the latest twist in a series of setbacks for UK construction projects after the terror attacks. Last week, Building revealed that two schemes worth a total of £29m at Birmingham Airport had been put back because of a sharp decline in business in the wake of attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

The deals had first been due to be announced in July, but this had been postponed to September because prime minister Tony Blair's ministerial reshuffle in the wake of his election victory had put a new ministerial team in charge.