NUTTALL has nipped in ahead of Carillion to land the inaugural rail project tendered under the Early Contractor Involvement scheme, pioneered by the Highways Agency.
The £40 million job in Scotland will open up a commuter route between Stirling and Kincardine via Alloa.
Clackmannanshire Council pitched Nuttall against Carillion for the deal after AWG, Kier and Gleeson had earlier fallen by the wayside.
Nuttall will re-lay some track and refurbish other areas of a 21 km-long route.
One of the main objectives of the project is to deliver coal to Longannet power station in Fife, remove freight from the Forth Rail Bridge and improve the operation of the Edinburgh-Glasgow line.
Both passenger and freight trains will use the track.
One project source said: 'Nuttall will now investigate the site and assess the structures already present.They will then price the project and, if it overshoots the council's evaluation, then the scheme may need a rethink.'
Work will be carried out in two phases.
Phase one, the ECI stage, will involve working with the project steering group to develop the design and costs for the project.
Under phase two, the contractor will be expected to complete the detailed design and carry out all the construction work required to re-open the route by January 2006.
Carillion is looking to bounce back in a face-off with Laing O'Rourke for another rail project, this time south of the border.
The £50 million Evergreen Phase II project will upgrade a section of Chiltern Railway's line from Marylebone station in central London to Bicester in Oxfordshire and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.
The two had to resubmit bids when the project was made into a PFI deal. Best and final offers go back in late July.