BOSSES behind a £14.8bn rail improvement scheme have denied the project favours South-East companies, and urged North-East firms to follow the lead a famous regional engineering company and bid for work.

Crossrail says firms should take inspiration from Cleveland Bridge, in Darlington, which won seven contracts to supply about 2,500 tonnes of steel for the new London rail link.

The project will include 26 miles of tunnels under the capital's streets, with Cleveland Bridge's steel used in new stations at Bond Street and Paddington, and a number of bridges at Canary Wharf station.

The work come after Cleveland Bridge, which employs about 260 workers, won a £35m deal to make up to 210 bridges for the Sri Lankan government and a contract to make massive steel girders for the new Forth Road Bridge, in Scotland.

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail chief executive, this morning visited Cleveland Bridge (Wednesday, October 16) and denied major contracts were slanted towards South-East companies.

He said: “Crossrail is not just benefiting London and the South-East, it is creating jobs and business opportunities right around the UK.

“A number of North-East companies have already won contracts on Crossrail, but as we enter our peak period of construction, it's vital businesses in this region continue to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise.”

Andy Hall, Cleveland Bridge general manager, said Crossrail was a major factor in its continuing success.

He said: “We are proud to contribute towards the project, which has been a welcome contribution to our turnover in the last three years.”

Crossrail has also created work for crane supplier Mammoet, based in Billingham, near Stockton, and Advanced Engineering Solutions Limited, in Cramlington, Northumberland, which inspects underground pipe sections.