Strong performance in the US makes up for below-par building and rail sector at home.

Balfour Beatty says it has recorded a 37 per cent increase in half-year profits, making £67 m in the six months to 2 July after exceptional items. Its order book now stands at £7.4bn, up by 14 per cent on the same period in 2004. The announcement comes despite continuing difficulties in the rail sector, and the news that profits from the group’s building and building management services sector have fallen from £14 m to £8 m.

In a joint statement, chairman Sir David John and chief executive Ian Tyler said that restructuring in the United States had helped ensure a good performance for the six months. “Management changes, reorganisation and other steps taken to address the poor performance of the last two years have begun to show results, with significantly improved performance in the civil engineering business,” they said.

While pre-tax profits in the group’s civil engineering sector doubled to £17 m, the rail engineering and services took a knock as profits fell to £20 m. The group said this was in part due to Network Rail taking rail maintenance back in-house. It added that the medium-term outlook in the UK and German rail sectors remained unclear.

Last month the judge investigating the train crash at Hatfield in October 2000 ordered that manslaughter charges against Balfour Beatty and two of its former employees be dropped. It has admitted breaching health and safety standards before the accident which killed four people.