WS Atkins intends to increase the number of Chinese engineers it employs to work on global road and rail projects in the next 18 months.
The group employs 120 engineers in an office in Shenzen, China. They work on signal modelling work for rail contracts in the UK. Their results are sent to firms in Britain over the internet.

Chief executive Robin Southwell said this number could grow to 500 as Atkins expanded.

Atkins uses engineers from China and India because their wage rates are lower and because there is a labour shortage in the UK. Southwell said the group intended to extend this practice to other developing countries.

He was speaking as Atkins posted a pre-tax profit of £20.8m for the six months to 30 September, up 12% on the same period last year. The company's turnover rose 23% to £286.5m.