Bumper profits for Atkins

Engineering group Atkins enjoyed a bumper profits boost last year as the government threw billions at the nation’s railways, roads and public services.

High public spending in general, and on transport in particular, helped Atkins deliver a pre-tax profit of £56m for the 12 months to March, well ahead of the previous year’s £19m. Sales rose almost £60m to £992m.

Atkins, which is heavily involved in the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line (WCML), saw the first cash roll in from Metronet, the PPP company modernising a significant chunk of the London Underground system.

The company has a 20 per cent stake in Metronet which has engineering and refurbishment contracts covering two-thirds of London’s Tube network. Its 30-year PPP agreement covers the track, trains, signals and stations of important stretches of the capital’s network including the Victoria, Metropolitan, Bakerloo and Central lines.

On the WCML project, Europe’s biggest rail infrastructure programme, Atkins overhauled signalling equipment and power lines along 56 miles of track during a recent shutdown of the railway in North Staffordshire.

The company said that the government’s £23bn commitment to upgrade the national network boded well for the prospects of its rail operations. It has just embarked on several long-term projects including 10-year contracts with Network Rail in Scotland and southeast England.

Atkins also claimed a successful year on the roads, with high- profile projects including the M6 Toll and the new Medway Bridge across the A2.

The company is working on six traffic control centres and has been awarded a major contract by the Welsh Assembly to operate telecoms services on the region’s motorways and trunk roads.

Atkins also benefited from the Treasury’s largesse outside the transport sector. Its design and engineering division, which includes building and architecture services, forged ahead in areas such as the NHS, education and flood defences.

‘Ongoing public sector investment provided a steady stream of work,’ the company told its shareholders. ‘UK construction continues to be driven by public sector investment during 2004.’

Other engineering highlights included work with Rolls-Royce to develop the engine for the Joint Strike Fighter and an increased presence in the oil industry.

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