George Balfour, a Scot by ancestry, was born in Portsmouth. At 16 he served a five-year apprenticeship in the Blackness Foundry in Dundee.
1882 – Electric Lighting Act
Parliament passed the Electric Lighting Act to keep the supply of electricity on a local footing. Electric tramways began to take over from the old horse-drawn systems. This inspired George Balfour and Andrew Beatty to establish their own business.
1909 – Balfour Beatty founded
Balfour Beatty was founded by George Balfour, a Scots mechanical engineer, and Andrew Beatty, an English chartered accountant. The company described itself as "general and electrical engineers, contractors, operating managers for tramways, railways and lighting properties and for the promoting of new enterprises."
The company's first contract was for a new tramway system in Dunfermline in Fife. Worth £141,450, it involved laying new track and lighting cables and installing additional generating plant at the power house. The company subsequently moved into civil engineering when it was commissioned to build a five-mile-long aqueduct at Kinlochleven.
1914 – First World War
Balfour Beatty moved to new London offices, but within weeks the nation was at war. Many Balfour Beatty staff in London and Edinburgh left to join the army and those who remained had to take on new and extra work. Although tramway work was halted Balfour Beatty was able to undertake other projects of national importance.
George Balfour was elected as the Conservative and Unionist member for Hampstead. He played a prominent part in debates on electricity in 1919, 1922 and 1926 as well as many discussions on unemployment.
Unemployment more than doubled between December 1920 and March 1921. Recognising that the new electrical industry held great promise for better employment, George Balfour and Andrew Beatty registered a new company, Power Securities Corporation Ltd, in 1922, to increase financial resources to fund more and larger projects including hydro-electric projects in Scotland.
Balfour Beatty began its work outside the UK with hydro-electric projects in East Africa. This was extended in 1926 to work in Palestine to supply electricity and water to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The Central Electricity Generating Board was set up to construct the national grid, at a cost of £26.7 million. By 1922, the Midland Counties Electric Supply Company had standardised the voltage in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. In the same year the Lochaber water power scheme commenced, which called for a 15-mile tunnel to be driven through granite mountains in Fort William. This was the longest tunnel in the world and the largest project in the Scottish Highlands.
By 1929 power facilities were being built all over the world, along with railways and tram systems. These included a railway in Bermuda, and Balfour Beatty offices were maintained in Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
Balfour Beatty became engineers and agents to the Perak River Hydro-Electric Power Company in Malaya, at the request of the British Treasury. The company held a concession to supply electricity to the tin mines in Kinta valley and built two power stations, but just as these were completed a world slump hit the tin industry, bringing financial problems. A gradual recovery brought good results until December 1941, when Malaya was invaded in the war.
Iraq required gigantic irrigation schemes and the first task was to build a barrage across the river Tigris. This was completed in 1938.
1939 – Second World War
By the outbreak of the second world war the National Grid plan was complete and Sir Johnstone Wright, president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers said that the organisation of British electricity was without parallel in any other country.
Overseas work was severely curtailed during the second world war. The famous Churchill Barriers were built in the Orkneys to protect the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow - home of the British naval fleet. Once the war was over reconstruction work began. In 1946, work valued at £4 million included installing 100,000 kW of power plant, erecting 230 miles of transmission lines, bomb damage reconstruction, railway tunnel repairs and opencast coal mining. Two massive projects were initiated: a 360,000 kW generating station at Staythorpe and a 345,000kW station at Burry Port in south Wales.
Once the war was over, and the Labour party elected, nationalisation of some industries was inevitable. This deeply affected Balfour Beatty and its financial parent, Power Securities. A new British Electricity Authority would be responsible for competitively tendering all construction work using public money.
Balfour Beatty continued to be successful outside the UK. This included the construction of the Wadi Tharthar project in Iraq. The £6 million project was opened by King Faisal in 1956.
Other projects included the longest rail tunnel in Britain under the Pennines, the Sloy Dam in the north of Scotland and major works for the developing London Underground system. A Balfour Beatty company was also registered in Toronto to undertake marine projects in the Great Lakes in 1954.
Nuclear power was an exciting new challenge and in 1957 work began on a power station at Berkeley.
By the time the company enjoyed its golden jubilee in 1959, it was able to celebrate "50 years of power development and services as a complete organisation with design, construction, operation and management of engineering projects in any part of the world."
In the 1960s, Balfour Beatty built a second Blackwall tunnel under the Thames. It also brought vital new power generation and transmission capacity to Malaysia, Kenya, Tanganyika and Nigeria, where the Kainji dam opened in 1969. Vital new water systems were also provided in the Jordan Valley.
By 1968, Balfour Beatty was well established and successful, but with the new 400kV Supergrid in the UK now complete, the future looked less rosy.
Balfour Beatty merged with the construction activities of BICC, the British cable-making giant. This strengthened existing disciplines and added related activities such as railway electrification and a diversification into new markets including motorway construction, building and property development.
In the 1970s major projects were carried out in Iran, India and the UK. To this day, most of the tunnels in the world, which carry electrified railways, have Balfour Beatty conductors in them.
Work also began at the £350 million Mina Jebel Ali port in Dubai.
Balfour Beatty was also heavily involved in the major expansion of the UK road network and urban traffic management schemes. In 1976 Balfour Beatty Construction won a £30 million contract in a joint venture to build the Kielder dam in Northumberland.
Balfour Beatty became one of Britain’s top contractors with a turnover of £680 million.
Balfour Beatty leads the UK-side of an Anglo-French joint venture awarded the turnkey contract to build the Channel Tunnel.
A Balfour Beatty and Costain joint venture was awarded the £93 million contract for the Cardiff Bay barrage. A contract to build the Hong Kong Airport terminal building at Chep Lap Kok was also undertaken in joint venture.
Work in the US included the electrification of Amtrak's North East corridor between Boston, Massachusetts and New Haven in Connecticut.
The Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France opened in 1994. Balfour Beatty had played an important part in its construction and continued work to build sections of the new fast rail link from the coast to London.
Balfour Beatty was an early entrant into the UK PPP market, being awarded its first project in 1995. By the turn of the decade, the company had established itself as a leader in this fast-growing market.
As part of the privatisation of British Rail and creation of Railtrack, Balfour Beatty acquired rail maintenance and rail renewals businesses to augment its position as the UK’s leading rail contracting company.
The appointment of Chief Executive Mike Welton and Finance Director Ian Tyler marked the beginning of a period of consistent growth for the company, which has continued to this day.
Radical changes in worldwide cable markets hit the cable business hard and the losses in the manufacturing business mounted. In 1997 a strategic decision was taken to dispose of the cables businesses, the bulk of which was accomplished by 1999.
During this period, Balfour Beatty's key projects included the Pergau hydro-electric project in Malaysia, a turnkey contract with Thames Power for a gas fired power station at Barking Reach in east London and a £39 million contract for the extension of the M8 in Scotland.
Balfour Beatty Investments (formerly Balfour Beatty Capital Projects) was formed to manage the Group's growing portfolio of privately financed infrastructure projects and a new chapter began.
Following the privatisation of Britain’s railways, Balfour Beatty played an important part in the maintenance of major lines and won the contract to remodel the approaches to Euston station and transform the ageing West Coast Main Line.
The fast growing US transport market resulted in major contracts for Balfour Beatty in Texas, California and South Carolina. While in Hong Kong, a HK$2.2 billion contract to construct the Nam Cheong station in Kowloon was secured.
Following the demise of BICC, Balfour Beatty emerged once more as an independent public company. It was bolstered by a recovery in its financial strength, a new management team and the cash proceeds of the cables sale.
In its aim to become a world leading supplier and maintainer of fixed rail infrastructure, the Group acquired Adtranz's rail electrification and traction power supply business. This gave the company an immediate and major presence in the worldwide high-speed rail market.
The creation of Balfour Beatty Utilities enabled the Group to secure outsourced term contracts with many of the UK’s privatised utility companies.
The year saw the retirement of the chairman, Viscount Weir. He had guided the Group through its major transformation in the late 1990s when the worldwide cables business was divested and Balfour Beatty was established as an independent public company.
The Group expanded its presence in Hong Kong with the purchase of 50% of Gammon Construction from Skanska.
The announcement that Balfour Beatty was the preferred bidder for Birmingham Schools brought the number of PPP schools projects to five. The other projects were located in Stoke, Rotherham, North Lanarkshire and Nottinghamshire.
By 2006 Balfour Beatty, with an established track record in airport infrastructure development, was selected by Devon County Council as preferred bidder to acquire Exeter International Airport.
The acquisition of Centex Construction, a leading US construction management company and GMH, a major player in the US PPP military accommodation market creates a major business in the US.
Balfour Beatty acquired Parsons Brinckerhoff, a global consulting firm that assists public and private clients to plan, develop, design, construct, operate and maintain thousands of critical infrastructure projects around the world. Parsons Brinckerhoff operates through a network of over 100 offices with approximately 12,650 employees.
The acquisition accomplished a number of Balfour Beatty's objectives by establishing a global professional services business of scale; creating a leading position in US civil infrastructure, particularly in the transportation sector; enhancing its global reach, as well as strengthening its position in existing geographical markets and the power sector.
In 2009, Balfour Beatty was selected by BAA to provide both pre-construction advice and construction services for a major part of the works associated with the Eastern Campus Development Programme at Heathrow Airport, London.
The acquisition of Toronto-based Halsall, as part of Parsons Brinckerhoff, brought in 300 people to the Group, providing a platform to leverage Parsons Brinckerhoff’s design and engineering services in Canada’s infrastructure market.
In South Africa, Parsons Brinckerhoff joined forces with Esksom, the country’s power utility, to build the Medupi power station, which will be the world’s fourth-largest thermal power station.
To support its growth, the UK facilities management business opened a new 24/7 National Operations Centre (NOC) in Manchester,UK.
Balfour Beatty formed a partnership with one of India’s largest and most respected companies, Tata Projects, to pursue new business opportunities in the country.
Aligning international rail expertise with established professional services presence in Parsons Brinckerhoff’s business in Australia, helped Balfour Beatty win a contract to design and build a new line in Melbourne.
By acquiring Howard S. Wright in the Northwest, the Group achieved its target US construction footprint.
The acquisition of Fru-Con Construction LLC, a leading water and wastewater infrastructure contractor in the US added to Balfour Beatty’s expertise in water infrastructure projects.
In addition, numerous high-profile projects were delivered – such as the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics.
Balfour Beatty launched a group wide Sustainability Month, entitled “Together for Tomorrow”, to showcase the Company’s progress against its 2020 sustainability vision. It also won the Business Green Leaders Award for “Sustainability Team of the Year” based on its worldwide Sustainable Working Group’s (SWG) success in driving change across the business.
Gammon Construction in Hong Kong continued to perform well on the back of a strong order book, including its largest ever solo contract to work on a major section of the new Shatin to Central rail link for MTR Corporation Limited.
2013 started with an announcement that Ian Tyler will hand over to Andrew McNaughton as Chief Executive, effective from 31st March, 2013.
Balfour Beatty acquired Subsurface Group, Inc. a professional consulting and engineering firm to expand Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Energy Storage Services business in the USA.
In January, its infrastructure funds management business, Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners (BBIP), reached first close on its first fund.
On 31st March, Andrew McNaughton officially became the new Chief Executive of Balfour Beatty.