Consortium also including John Laing takes multimillion-pound claim over scrapped Leicester scheme to the High Court

A consortium including Laing O'Rourke and John Laing has launched a legal battle to reclaim millions of pounds in costs over the scrapped £711m Leicester Hospitals PFI scheme.

The Triskelion consortium, which also includes Serco and Portfolio Solutions (Northern Ireland), has lodged a claim in the High Court against the Department of Health and University Hospitals of Leicester National Healthcare.

The details of the claim cannot be made public until it has been acknowledged by the defendant, but it is understood that it will run to tens of millions of pounds. The legal action has followed two years of attempts to resolve the dispute through means such as mediation and arbitration.

The PFI scheme, on which Triskelion was appointed preferred bidder in March 2005, was cancelled in July 2007 after a long-running wrangle over costs.

The project's original budget was £904m, but this was scaled back to £711m in 2006 after a government review of all major health PFI projects.

Then, in 2007, the consortium revised its price estimate up to £921m and said there was no guarantee the cost would not rise further. This triggered nine weeks of further debate with the Department of Health, culminating in the project being cancelled.

It was reported at the time the project was cancelled that £23m had been spent so far on preparing for the scheme, and that the spiralling costs were linked to the difficulty of refurbishing many of Leicester's existing hospital buildings.

A spokesperson for Triskelion said: “Triskelion believes that its claim is justified legally. Triskelion has been attempting to resolve this issue for more than two years and has regrettably been left with no other option than to seek redress through the courts.”

The five-year construction programme, which was to have involved work on the Glenfield, Leicester General and Leicester Royal Infirmary sites, was intended at the time to be the largest PFI hospital development outside London and the third largest scheme in the UK.