Contractors have been asked to speed up work on the Prison Service’s building programme in the wake of heightened political pressure on the Home Office to deal with overcrowding in prisons.

Building has learned that contractors are being asked to complete work associated with extensions at existing prisons and new temporary facilities, which would usually take up to nine weeks, within two weeks.

Contractors on the Prison Service framework are currently bidding for two projects known as “temporary custodial facilities”, which have been introduced as a quick fix. These will each provide 300 places for inmates. The deadline for bids is next week and contractors will only have until the end of October to finish the projects.

“There is a lot of pressure to complete projects by the end of the year. It started in November and has now reached a climax,” one of the contractors said.

The eight contractors on the framework are Kier, Wates, Shepherd, Morrison (now owned by Galliford Try), Willmott Dixon, Interserve, Shaylor and Caledonian Building Systems.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “John Reid announced in July the need for 8,000 more spaces and we are in the process of trying to establish where these should be. We are not prepared to go into exact details.”

• The Department of Health has been criticised for its role in the management of the £894m Paddington Health Campus scheme, which collapsed nearly two years ago.

A report issued this week by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee claimed the department failed to respond adequately when problems with the project emerged.