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Railtrack swipes Murray for CTRL

RAILTRACK HAS headhunted BAA's top procurement specialist Simon Murray to lead construction of the pounds1.7bn first section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Murray has a strong track record in major project procurement, having worked for Ove Arup on the complex Glaxo research centre in Stevenage.

Railtrack announced the appointment on Tuesday, the day after its shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of its plan to buy Section 1 of the CTRL on completion in late 2003.

The vote cleared one of the final obstacles to the start of work. Contractors on four sections of the route are now expected to move to the site today, following the signing of agreements between the Government, Railtrack and LCR. These confirm the general terms of the CTRL rescue package announced in June (NCE 11 June).

Initially Murray will join Railtrack in December as director of major projects and investment.

Murray will eventually join the Railtrack main board and will also lead the board of Union Railways South, which will procure Section 1 of the line between Fawkham Junction in Kent and the Channel Tunnel.

Failed CTRL operator London & Continental Railways has set up URS, but the new company will be controlled by Railtrack under the terms of its agreement to buy Section 1.

At BAA, Murray implemented the airport owner's revolutionary procurement regime which helped the company dramatically reduce costs on its pounds400M annual construction programme.

Civil engineer Murray also helped write Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction report for Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Work on Section 1 is expected to start without money from the pounds1.25bn government-backed bond issue which will finance most of the construction work.

Government financial adviser Schroder said this week that the money was not needed immediately as LCR had enough short term money to keep it going. The bonds are now expected to be issued by the end of October.

Murray will join the main Railtrack board next year on the retirement of engineering and production director Brian Mellitt. His brief will then expand to include responsibility for delivering Railtrack's entire pounds14bn investment programme.

Murray has been Sir John Egan's right hand man at BAA for the last four years, putting in place the systems that it is hoped will help achieve Egan's vision of a 50% reduction in construction costs.

He is widely credited as author of much of the report produced by the Egan task force, which was set up by Prescott to improve the efficiency of British construction.

'The attraction of the Railtrack job is the challenge of CTRL,' Murray said this week. 'I feel very strongly that as engineers we have an obligation to improve the way we deliver infrastructure to the country.'

Railtrack's investment programme and Railtrack itself played a big part in his decision to move on, he said

'It is important I work with people whom I feel comfortable with and I have great respect for the Railtrack staff. One of the great attractions is to work with a group of people who are committed to performing well.'

BAA chief executive Sir John Egan paid tribute to Murray. 'Simon Murray has made a major contribution to the company. I will not disguise our regret at his departure,' he said.

Murray's role at BAA will be taken on by his current boss, group technical director Mike Roberts.

Jackie Whitelaw

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