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Gleeson seeks work on national railways

NEWS - Contractor's Tube division looks to offset group losses by diversifying

GLEESON is chasing work from Network Rail for the first time after full-year losses at the contractor piled up.

Following a disastrous performance from Gleeson's disposed-of building division, the company's specialist rail arm, Gleeson MCL, is targeting work on the national rail network and is eyeing a deal to spruce up Edinburgh's main railway station, Waverley.

Gleeson MCL currently works on the London Tube system carrying out station refurbishments and bridge and tunnel repairs. The firm's director, Colin McLellan, said: 'At the moment we don't work for them. We've got to see what conditions Network Rail operate in. We are not interested in trackside or signalling work where we can be exposed to Hatfield-type disasters.' The group disposed of £170 million of turnover after it decided to sell its lossmaking building arm to a management team in August.

The business lost £44 million in the past year and was also hit with a restructuring and transaction cost of £7.5 million.

This helped plunge Gleeson into the red with group pre-tax losses hitting £13.1 million in the year to June, compared with a £17.6 million profit last time. Group turnover fell 9 per cent to £598 million.

Mr McLellan said the building business had come unstuck thanks to a botched plan to target high-tech PFI building work.

The Evelina children's hospital and St George's hospital projects in London and a contract to build a secure training centre in Milton Keynes all suffered from problems.

He added: 'There was a high level of M&E work, which was complicated.

'The penalties are high and we are left holding the baby. The programmes were too tight. A PFI programme does take a long time to complete. The start dates moved but the end dates didn't.' Mr McLellan ruled out trying to recover money through the courts. He said: 'With PFI, it's very diff icult to recover costs.' The team in charge of the new business, led by Martin Smout, has taken on 30 contracts it has identified as profitable projects, with Gleeson retaining the liability for the problem jobs.