WS ATKINS plans to recruit 500 Chinese engineers as part of a strategy to outsource work on UK road and rail networks to lower cost workforces abroad, the consultant said last week.
Chief executive Robin Southwell said he was targeting signalling engineers, although engineers from other disciplines would also be needed.
The firm hopes to give the engineers experience on British civils projects to prepare them for big, upcoming projects in China such as the Shanghai Metro. Atkins believes this will also help it to position itself for work in China.
Southwell said there were similar plans to set up a base for Indian engineers in the Gulf. He hopes some of these will work on the UK's East Coast Main Line upgrade.
Southwell announced details of the move along with WS Atkins' 2001 half year results last week.
In the six months to 30 September, Atkins' pretax profits increased to £20.8M from £18.5M in the same period last year.
Turnover increased from £314.4M to £386.5M.
Atkins' road and rail divisions performed strongly, despite Railtrack's collapse. Southwell said the track operator's failure had resulted in faster payments from administrator Ernst & Young.
Workload was also unaffected. The consultant picked up an £11M contract for work on the West Coast Main Line in joint venture with Carillion last week.