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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Jarvis's track record
Potter's Bar crash wreckage
Potter's Bar was a major disaster for Jarvis
Jarvis first grabbed the UK's attention in May 2002, following the fatal train crash at Potter's Bar.

The accident in Hertfordshire, on a stretch of line that the firm was responsible for maintaining, left seven dead and more than 70 people injured.

Now the engineering company has announced it is pulling out of the track repair business and handing its maintenance contracts over to the not-for-profit firm Network Rail.

The move is understood to be an attempt to salvage the firm's reputation, which has come under fire following a string of accidents.

But Jarvis claims the withdrawal is for purely commercial reasons.

Debacle

Just two weeks ago, Network Rail announced it had begun an investigation into the track maintenance record of the contractor.

Bosses at the rail network owner were furious after the latest debacle involving the firm - the derailment of an express train outside London's Kings Cross on 16 September.

JARVIS 'DERAILED'
Jarvis logo
May 2002: Potter's Bar crash, seven killed, 70m injured
Nov 2002: Coal train derailed near Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Jarvis ends up in court
Sep 2003: Express train derails outside London's Kings Cross at low speed
After the accident, Jarvis admitted staff had failed to secure a signal at red.

That incident came just three months after safety investigators said poorly maintained points had been the most likely cause of the Potter's Bar disaster.

Jarvis had turned in an otherwise strong performance in the years prior to the Hertfordshire crash.

The group, a small and nearly bankrupt construction firm in the mid-1990s, had by the end of the decade transformed itself into a services company with an 8,000-strong workforce and annual sales of about 750m.

Transformation

The icing on the cake came in late 2001 when Jarvis announced a 100% increase in half-year profits to 17.7m, sending its shares soaring to a 30-month high.

In April that year, it had taken over the East Coast mainline maintenance contract from rival Balfour Beatty, which itself was heavily criticised after a faulty rail caused a train crash in October 2000 at Hatfield.

Jarvis's flamboyant Iranian-born boss Paris Moayedi, who took over as chief executive in 1994, is widely credited with masterminding the turnaround.

He achieved the transformation by spotting and ruthlessly exploiting the trend for contracting out government services which swept through Europe during the 1990s.

Road builder

Responsible for about 4,700 miles of track, Jarvis was the biggest railway maintenance company in the UK.

Its engineers also maintain and upgrade long stretches of the UK's road network.

Rail worker inspects track after Potter's Bar crash
Jarvis' maintenance record is being probed by Network Rail
Jarvis's railway and road maintenance operations form the backbone of its business, accounting for more than two-thirds of its profits in its last financial year.

The remainder of the company's cash comes from the contracted management of premises for schools, universities and hospitals.

PFI jackpot

Jarvis is also one of the main beneficiaries of the government's policy of involving the private sector more closely in public construction and engineering projects.

It is part of the Tube Lines consortium which won the contract to maintain the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines on the London Underground.

And the company has racked up a series of lucrative orders to rebuild railways, roads and schools under the government's private finance initiative, a scheme aimed at making public construction projects more efficient.

Under the PFI, construction firms which agree to put up part of the money for major public building projects themselves are offered a guaranteed revenue stream for a number of years in return.

But critics allege that it would be cheaper to fund the construction projects directly from the public purse.




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