By Kristy Dorsey

Infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty has reported a 20% surge in its order book following April’s formal go-ahead for work to begin on the HS2 rail project.

In joint venture with VINCI, Balfour Beatty will deliver earthworks and ground engineering along a 90km stretch south of Birmingham, along with work on the London hub station at Old Oak Common. This boosted its order book by £3 billion to £17.4bn at the end of April.

In its trading update to shareholders, Balfour Beatty also revealed that 83% of its UK and US construction sites were operational in May, though 17% of those open experienced “significant disruption” due to a lack of employees, subcontractors or materials as a result of the Covid-10 pandemic.

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The areas most affected in the UK were Scotland, where all non-essential construction works have been closed, and London, where the availability of public transport “has been a significant challenge”. However, Balfour Beatty was principal contractor on the £43 million conversion of Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus (SEC) into the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

The group praised the UK Government’s decision to go ahead with the HS2 mega-project, as it provides “critical visibility and impetus” for contractors and their supply chain partners in an uncertain market. In combination with increased funding for other rail and road projects, this demonstrates a “commitment to stimulate economic recovery”.

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Balfour Beatty has set a date of June 25 for its annual general meeting, which was postponed in March amid restrictions on public gatherings. In common with other large organisations, its AGM will be a closed meeting with alternative arrangements for shareholders to participate.

The group has decided to cancel payment of its final dividend for 2019, but will go ahead with plans to redeem £112m of preference shares.