Balfour Beatty set for £600m of Railtrack maintenance work

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The Independent Online

Balfour Beatty, the engineering group that has been involved in the much-delayed West Coast Main Line rail upgrade, is set to be awarded a £600m maintenance contract by Railtrack to work on three of the country's other major lines.

Balfour Beatty, the engineering group that has been involved in the much-delayed West Coast Main Line rail upgrade, is set to be awarded a £600m maintenance contract by Railtrack to work on three of the country's other major lines.

Railtrack has named Balfour Beatty as its "preferred bidder" to maintain the East Coast Main Line between King's Cross in London and Scotland, the Great Eastern & Anglia line, and all of the Kent lines, for the next five years. The company already maintains these lines, with its contracts due to expire next year.

The move comes weeks after it emerged that delays in the £5.8bn project to rebuild the West Coast line at Euston, which Balfour Beatty and GT Rail Maintenance are contracted to work on, resulted in Railtrack having to pay compensation to train operators.

Railtrack said yesterday that although the tendering process for the heavily-used lines had been competitive, the specialist work required meant it did not have many companies to choose from. There was a shortlist of only two for the East Coast and Anglia lines, with four in the running for the Kent lines.

However, Railtrack emphasised that even though the contracts are intended to last for the next five years, Balfour Beatty could be sacked "overnight" if it does not meet tough new standards. A spokeswoman said: "If they do not come up with the goods, it could not only lead to a large financial penalty. They could lose their contract."

The final details are still being hammered out between Railtrack and Balfour Beatty. However, Balfour Beatty will have to sign one of Railtrack's stringent new Infrastructure Maintenance Contracts. These introduce tough standards covering the quality of work and completion deadlines.

Mike Welton, Balfour Beatty chief executive, said: "We are committed to the railway and believe that we can significantly improve the efficiency of the maintenance process in partnership with Railtrack."

Balfour Beatty said yesterday it had already reduced delays on the three lines being tendered at the moment, but would not say by how much. A spokeswoman defended the company's record on the West Coast line, saying: "It is a very complex project. The timetable has to be changed to account for work going on."

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