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Friends in high places

Mace is aiming to create for itself a niche position in the railways, building on a client base as diverse as retail chains, British Airways and, of course, Railtrack itself. The Mace Rail division was set up earlier this year, and the company has been working on some high profile Railtrack schemes. It is already involved with major rail projects in the form of Thameslink, where it is project management consultant. It is also working on the Chiltern Lines, commissioned this month.

'Mace has managed to put itself in a very strategic position in relation to rail in a short period,' claims director Tim Renwick.

Another key figure in Mace Rail is non-executive director Gil Howarth, who was Railtrack's director of major projects until May this year when he joined Mace.

'We are not looking to become designers or contractors in the rail arena,' says Renwick. Rather than targeting thousands of smaller projects, the company is looking to work on the bigger schemes, and in strategic roles. 'We want to work in areas where we can add benefit,' he adds.

'We are talking with a number of groups,' says Howarth. 'Mace has a very strong working relationship with British Airways and BAA, and the company has been working with Railtrack for two years.' Both BA and BAA are becoming more transport companies than straight airport/airline companies. 'Clearly, if there was to be a project like Heathrow to St Pancras, our working relationships with all three may be of some benefit,' says Howarth.

Mace is also keen to work with developers where there is potential for station refurbishment associated with air rights developments at both LU and Railtrack stations. 'One way of funding a new platform, for example, is by maximising the opportunities above it,' says Howarth.

This is an area where Mace - with previous involvement in projects such as Ludgate and Broadgate - has some expertise, Renwick believes.

Light rail, too, offers opportunities, including extensions to the Docklands Light Railway and Manchester Metrolink.

'We have gained knowledge from working for major superstores, such as food companies and Dixons,' says Renwick. There is considerable potential for transporting white goods, for example, by rail, he believes. 'Take the Post Office,' says Howarth. 'It's back on the railways, and I could see that sort of distribution for major retail-type organisations.'

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