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Abbey National crisis hits Symonds train depot job

A SHAKE-UP in the financing of a £65M project to build six train depots for South Central Trains has led to the departure of consultant Symonds from the job.

Train leasing firm Porterbrook was financing the train depot project. But it has pulled out after parent company Abbey National announced its intention to sell the business and focus on retail banking. Last week Abbey National posted disastrous results showing a £984M loss for last year.

The project covers construction of depots at Selhurst and Streatham Hill in south London and at Brighton, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and Eastbourne.

Consultant Symonds was project managing the depot project but will now be replaced by Halcrow.

A Porterbrook spokesman said: 'Abbey National's refocussing has meant a root and branch review of activities, and as a result Porterbrook will not be proceeding with the depot upgrades. However, Abbey National has worked actively to find a new funding partner for the project.'

Investment bank Lombard will take over from Porterbrook.

Abbey cited its refocussing as the reason for leaving the job.

But the Strategic Rail Authority's decision to cut the South Central franchise from 20 years to just seven last year is also understood to have made the project less financially attractive.

South Central Trains operator Go-Ahead said that a costs review questioned the need for two consultants on the project.

Halcrow acts as Go-Ahead's lead consultant on its rail franchise projects.

'It was decided to expand Halcrow's role on the depots and that Symonds would withdraw, ' a spokesman said, adding that Symonds would be compensated.

The project had experienced previous difficulties when contractor Amec briefly walked off the job (NCE 10 October 2002).

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