Simon Murray, director of major projects, introduced programme management to Railtrack because he felt the existing project management set-up was an inefficient way of delivering an integrated transport system.
'We rarely achieve improvements for our customers with just one project - it takes a series of projects, and they need to be managed as a programme,' he said.
US companies have been successful because they have more experience of programme management on big petrochemical, defence and civil infrastructure schemes than British firms.
Their staff also have more experience of managing projects than their UK counterparts, claimed Murray.
'The challenge for the UK is to devise a system of reward and recognition that encourages bright people to build their careers in running projects (rather than running the business).'
Mott MacDonald, the only British owned company to make the cut, was thought not to have all the necessary skills to manage a major programme. It was encouraged by Railtrack to joint venture with Fluor Daniel, which had more experience of managing programmes but lacked some of Mott's technical abilities.
Mott chairman Tim Thirlwall said: 'We are delighted to have been selected by Railtrack. And it will be good for us in the medium and long term to work with American partners.'
A spokesman for Brown & Root said it was 'hugely disappointed' not to have been selected. He added: 'We remain committed to the rail sector and are ready to offer our support to Railtrack wherever it is needed.'