Sir Richard Branson's companies go to High Court work over explosive electrics

Sir Richard Branson’s companies Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Travel have launched a battle over the construction of premises in Crawley.

The two are suing HBG Construction, Lorne Stewart plc, Integrated Design Associates, and Gurney Consulting Engineers and demanding damages of at least £550,000.

The dispute centres around alleged defective electrical work, in particular the installation of busbars which led to explosions and damage.

Virgin accuses them of negligence and breaches of duty of care over work and professional services relating to the constitution of premises at Site D, Crawley Business Quarter.

In a High Court writ, Virgin says that after installation, the ducts and trenches in which the busbars stood became wet and failed to drain, so that the busbars either stood in or were immersed in water for prolonged periods.

Over the years, the resign insulation between conductors around joints in the busbars failed, leaving the busbars defective and in need of replacement.

In March 2001, the south busbars failed in service, causing explosions and damage, and damaged a connected transformer. Two years later, insulation around the north busbar was also unacceptable.

The freehold of the site was owned by Vanson Developments, who entered into a construction contract with HBG’s predecessor Kyle Stewart in 1996.

Lorne Stewart acted as electrical works sub contractor, while Integrated Design provided specialist building engineer services and Gurney provided structural and civil engineering services.

Kyle Stewart replaced the failed generator busbars but refused responsibility for Virgin’s costs. The replacement generator busbars have since failed. Virgin has since had all the busbars replaced.

Virgin says the cost of replacing them, the hire of alternative temporary generators, and professional fees amounted to £718,053.49 plus VAT

The cost of replacing the north and south busbars and associated costs was £412,435.77 plus VAT and 3139.790.46 plus VAT, and Virgin says it has suffered other losses as well.