A TOP official at the Mass Transit Railway Corporation has blasted British contractors working on the $35 billion airport railway project. Alastair Budge-Reid, MTRC's engineering director, said some firms have placed a higher risk on working in Hong Kong than firms from other countries. Consequently these companies have spent an inordinately large amount of time pursuing claims for extra cash or looking for problems which they then pursue with the corporation in the hope of getting additional compensation. Mr Budge-Reid made his comments during a rail conference in Britain to drum up interest in the MTRC's future rail plans including the Quarry Bay, Tseung Kwan O and East Kowloon line extensions. Back in Hong Kong, he was anxious to play down the effect his comments would have, but admitted 'it will put the cat among the pigeons'. 'One or two firms have taken a negative response to the work and adopted a fairly combative posture. They are losing sight of the main purpose of the job and that's to get something built,' he said. By comparison, several local firms had excelled themselves. 'It was a matter of honour to them to finish the job within time and budget.' Mr Budge-Reid said only a handful of British contractors were involved and warned that these firms risked losing the chance to bid for future projects. 'Completing the job [on time and within budget] is paramount with us. If there's a problem it should not stand in the way of progress,' he said. But Mr Budge-Reid added that the MTRC has a number of very successful relationships with British contractors. 'They keep coming back for more work', he said and expected this to continue when the MTRC invites tenders later this year for the Quarry Bay and Tseung Kwan O extensions. These new routes are part of a $65 billion route expansion plan which includes the East Kowloon and Island lines, if approved by the Government. 'There will be a good market for goods at the right price for whoever can deliver them and this market will be there for the foreseeable future,' he said. British builders are working on an estimated $4.7 billion worth of contracts on the airport railway, nearly a quarter of the $17.57 billion worth of deals which have been awarded for the project. Most of these are in joint ventures with firms from other countries, including local contractors. These include the $377 million Olympic station at Tai Kok Tsui which Laing International and local firm Hip Hing are close to finishing and the $720 million Central subway being built by Kier and Sun Fook Kong. The lion's share has been taken by Japanese companies who are working on more than $8.7 billion of orders.