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Rail Contractor Grows Staff Numbers


The Lanarkshire-based QTS rail contracting business run by entrepreneur Alan McLeish has increased employee numbers by 40 per cent after recording strong growth in sales amid buoyant sector conditions.

Mr McLeish saw the group grow average employee numbers by 40 per cent annually in the year to 31 March, to 241, from 172 in the preceding period as it staffed up to cope with a big increase in workloads.

Started by Mr McLeish with a £300 loan from his mum, QTS achieved £70.6 million turnover in the year to 31 March up eight per cent from £65.4m in the previous, with growth fuelled by a big increase in activity south of the border.

In the latest accounts for QTS filed at Companies House, Mr McLeish said: “The last 12 months have seen a substantial rise in works delivered in England and Wales with a corresponding rise in employment matching the geographic spread of our contract delivery.”

QTS provides services such as clearing vegetation from lines and erecting fencing.

Noting that the rail sector remains buoyant, Mr McLeish said QTS has a substantial order book. The company is happy with its strategic positioning as Network Rail continues with a big programme of investment in the UK’s railways.

QTS is one of seven suppliers who will deliver more than 1,000 maintenance, renewals and enhancements projects improving earthworks, bridges, tunnels, footbridges and station buildings under Network Rail's £38bn programme to build a bigger, better UK railway during the five-year period between 2014 and 2019.

Mr McLeish added: “The board of directors are pleased to announce that in November 2015 QTS was successful in all 12 lots of Network Rail’s five year Vegetation Framework contract, obtaining tier one status in 10 of the 12 lots. This is a great achievement for the whole QTS team as it cements our status as a national company.”

Based in Drumclog near Strathaven, QTS has been working to raise its profile to help put it in contention for work overseas as well as across the UK.

Mr McLeish has noted the potential to win work in countries such as Australia and China amid changes in the global rail industry.

In December last year the company agreed a deal to become the Scottish League Cup Presenting Partner. This involved sponsoring the semi finals, which featured both Glasgow Old Firm soccer teams, and the final won by Celtic.

In November last year the company agreed a two year sponsorship deal with Derby County under which its name will appear on the back of the English Championship club’s players’ shirts and their shorts.

The company has its southern headquarters in nearby Nottingham.

In May QTS extended its shirt sponsorship deal with Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock for a fourth season.

In the latest accounts Mr McLeish noted QTS’ administrative costs had increased following the expansion of its activities and moves to strengthen operating controls.

However, profits remained steady. The company made £6.1m profit before tax compared with £6.5m in the preceding year.

The latest success will burnish Mr McLeish’s credentials as a star of the entrepreneurial world in Scotland.

It underlines how much Mr McLeish has achieved since leaving school in the 1970s with no qualifications only to see his hopes of becoming a professional footballer dashed after an injury.

The young Mr McLeish went on to train as a tree surgeon after doing seasonal forestry work.

QTS developed out of the Quality Tree Surgeons business that Mr McLeish started in 1991 with the loan provided by his mum.

The business prospered after winning work from British Rail.

However Mr McLeish has noted that it faced big challenges following a diversification into providing streetscapes for local authorities and associated CCTV and drainage services. The new divisions suffered hefty losses amid the downturn in the construction sector that followed the credit crunch which started in 2007.

The company returned to a rapid growth path after deciding in 2011 to focus on core activities such as rail infrastructure work.

In the accounts Mr McLeish said: “Our growth strategy can be summed up in one sentence, being ‘to focus on delivering what we are good at.’”