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Rail team's global skills hunt pays off


THE TEAM carrying out an electrification contract on the West Coast Main Line upgrade has filled key posts after being forced to trawl India and Australia for staff.

Frustrated by the skills shortage in Britain the consortium, comprising Balfour Beatty, GTRM and WS Atkins, has recruited Indian designers and Australian engineers.

From India, Rites has been appointed to help carry out the design work on the £350 million overhead line contract between Euston in London and Glasgow Central. The company is an overhead line specialist on the subcontinent.

And a number of Australian electrification supervisors and engineers has been lined up for the installation work.

Rob Boulger, managing director of Balfour Beatty Rail Projects, said: 'We are starting by recruiting 25 designers from India but we might need more.

'The problem is that, since the East Coast Main Line electrification project finished 10 years ago, there has been very little electrification work in the UK, so we suddenly have to find ways to increase our resources.'

The Indian recruits were flown into Britain last month and taken to Balfour Beatty's design house in Kirkby, Merseyside, and to WS Atkins' office in Derby for two weeks' training in the computer technology being used on the scheme.

The Indian team will be based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, where WS Atkins has an office. It will be headed by Alan Hackett from Balfour Beatty, who flew to the UAE last week to take charge. The contract with Rites is expected to last for at least year.

Some Australian engineers have also been drafted in to work on the scheme and more are set to follow.

Mr Boulger said: 'We are looking for more engineers in that country and, if they have good experience, we will take them on.'

Mr Boulger is also searching within the Balfour Beatty organisation to find engineers with experience of working with electricity with a view to training them for rail work.

The rail division is also in talks with Balfour Beatty's electrical contractor, Balfour Kilpatrick, about recruiting up to 20 engineers to help carry out installation work on the West Coast Main Line.