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Jackson in black but sheds staff

The company which was building the Gerrards Cross tunnel when it collapsed three years ago has said it has capped its losses on the job.

The news comes as Suffolk firm Jackson Civil Engineering also announced in its latest report and accounts filed at Companies House that the number of staff it employs had collapsed by more than half.

Jackson was backfilling over a 320m tunnel it had built on the Chiltern Railways line in Buckinghamshire for the construction of a new Tesco store when a 30m long section collapsed.

The incident in June 2005 caused two months of rail chaos and eventually saw Jackson replaced by Costain the following spring.

The fallout from the £25 million job was felt some time after with the group’s 2006 results plunging £900,000 into the red after it took a provision on the scheme.

But in a statement accompanying its latest results, for the 12 months to December 2007, the firm said: “The directors are pleased to report that throughout 2007 the company has secured its position relating to the tunnel over rail contract at Gerrards Cross.

“The company has now concluded its work on this project and has secured a limit on its liability to any potential claims. This limit is within levels covered under normal company insurance policy levels.”

The news meant that Jackson returned to the black last year returning as pre-tax profit of £642,000 on turnover down one fifth to £74.5 million.

Jackson said revenue had been affected by the amount of work being let by one of its key clients, the Environment Agency. It added: “From June 2006 to April 2007 the EA was assessing tenders for its second five year framework contract and during this time was unable to issue significant new work to the unknown successful contractors.

“The period of delay for new work awards resulted in significantly reduced EA turnover for the company during 2007.” The firm said it had now won a second, five year framework with the EA and that contracts awarded by the body had returned to previous levels.

Jackson also revealed that a move earlier this year to a new head office on the outskirts of Ipswich would see it make substantial savings in staff costs throughout this 2008 and beyond. These stood at £9.9 million – a fall of 20 per cent on last time – reflecting a drop in staff of more than half to just 162 from the previous year’s 349.

The salary of the highest-paid director, who is not named, saw their pay packet nosedive nearly 50 per cent to £217,000.