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Four vie for £70m hotel job


A QUARTET of firms is bidding for a £70 million redevelopment of a haunted hotel at London's St Pancras railway station.

The St Pancras Chambers, a Gothic masterpiece designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, was opened as the Midland Grand Hotel in 1876. But after making a loss it was converted into railway offices in 1935 before closing in 1980 after failing fire safety checks.

Hotel operator Marriott will now convert the Grade I listed building into a luxury hotel that will cater for Eurostar passengers, who will begin arriving at St Pancras in 2007.

HBG, Laing O'Rourke, Kier and Wates are lining up for the deal, which will involve redeveloping the hotel for modern use and building 68 luxury apartments for property group the Manhattan Loft Corporation. Enabling works worth £5 million are also included.

One source said: 'It's a big project and some may be surprised by the smaller firms on the list, but all of them have good experience of refurbishment.

'Laing O'Rourke probably has the best relationship with Marriott, as a few years ago it built a Marriott hotel for around £25 million down in Heathrow.

But that, along with most of the jobs they have done for the hotelier, was through Marriott's parent company, Whitbread.

This is being handled by Marriott itself, which may level the playing field.' The winning contractor will have to have strong nerves as the hotel is believed to be haunted by several ghosts and was the subject of investigations by television programme Most Haunted.

Ghosts are said to include a girl who killed herself in the late 1880s, Roman soldiers marching through the basement and a man who hides in room 10.

The four firms have to return their bids by December 5 and one will be invited to negotiate in the second stage of the tender process.

The work should start around next summer and is expected to take around two years to complete.