Specialist civil engineering contractor Joseph Gallagher is taking its ambitions to the next level after strengthening and expanding its capabilities with key acquisitions in recent years and entering the booming Middle-East.

The Group has enhanced its services via the shrewd acquisition of four companies: crawler crane specialist N.R.C. Plant Ltd; hired tunnelling equipment expert Specialist Plant Associates; Iseki Microtunnelling; and Johnston Trenchless Solutions. 

The latter pair have allowed the company not only to expand northward from its Orsett, Essex base, but has opened a path to new opportunities further afield.


Tunnelling Director Richard Dexter said: “We have in the last four years, through the acquisition of Iseki and Johnston, started business in the Middle-East and now have offices in Bahrain and Kuwait. We operate up and down the GCC. Half the Iseki machine fleet is kept in the Middle-East and can be quickly brought back to the UK if required. 

“The region has a massively growing population and huge oil and gas reserves. We do a lot of microtunnelling in oil and gas pipes, road crossings for the oil and gas industry, and with a growing population and a need to house and utility these people there’s significant capital investment in drainage. 

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“With the amount of building development going on there is the potential to forge ahead and build a reputation there, and we are doing this now.”

In a challenging market to break into, reputation counts, and with the company now approved in Bahrain as a tunnelling and microtunnelling contractor, it can bid with clients directly for work, and in the past four years, Joseph Gallagher has already forged a positive image.

While largely working as a subcontractor for larger builders, Gallagher’s ambitious management are keen to win more work as lead contractor. With more than three decades experience, it has the skills to do so. 

Dexter said: “We have been principal contractor on several occasions but a ratio of 5:1 as a subcontractor. As our turnover hopefully increases to the £100m bracket over the next five years we will pick up more roles as principal contractor. 

“The duration of our contracts over the last 10 years has increased from one-to-two months to one-to-two years, allowing us to attract and retain staff better because they become more settled and we can offer more stable positions.”

Dexter believes the acquired companies strongly complement each other, and that with their expansion of Joseph Gallagher’s capabilities, the decision to take on the existing liabilities of the Johnston business - both its equipment and skilled workforce – has been justified.

“We saw synergies in the business, so we could take on the roles played in-house without any additional costs, which reduced the cost-base of the company. We already had significant space for equipment and a head office and were able to reduce the office space costs. 

“The company had some exceedingly good employees and we could integrate the business they had with our existing business and our previous acquisition of Iseki Microtunnelling and our desire to make inroads into the midlands and northern England.” 

Gaining Johnston’s directional drilling arm, equipment it had previously lacked, also gave Gallagher directional drilling and auger boring capability, where it had previously had to subcontract.


These recent developments are just the latest step of a 32-year history. Eponymous founder Gallagher began his own company in 1982 after working for years as lead-miner and foreman for various large contractors. As the new venture grew, the company won its first major contract on the DLR Bank Station project in the late 1980s.

Successful completion of the Bank extension to the Docklands light railway laid the foundation of the Group’s reputation for competitive pricing and programme-achievement. 

True to its background, the company has retained its core activities, including shaft sinking and specialist groundworks, while also expanding into all types of civil engineering and construction, like spray concrete and microtunnelling.


Boasting a comprehensive set of skills in ground excavation, Joseph Gallagher remains involved in large-scale projects in the capital, including for Crossrail, for which it created five grout shafts at Bond Street C411 for Costain-Skanska, and the Connaught tunnel section of the Connaught passage for Taylor-Woodrow, a contract worth over £6 million. It is still working on the C360 Costain-Skanska Mile-End and Eleanor Street contract worth circa £10m.

Elsewhere, for the London Underground, Gallagher is building the Bond Street station upgrade for Costain-Laing O’Rourke for £15m and working on the National Grid London Power Tunnels for Costain-Skanska, valued at £20m over three years.  

Another specialist area and key part of the business is Gallagher’s exceptional deep basement and zero pile work for private property developers working on multi-storey housing in central London.

Gallagher has also performed strongly in the mining sector for a decade, successfully delivering multiple projects for various clients, including a new mine in County Monaghan, Ireland in 2006 for a British Gypsum subsidiary.

The Group also recently completed a 1.2 kilometre, eight-metre tunnel for a private mine in Northern Ireland, demonstrating its specialist capabilities in design and construction of mine access tunnels.  

Gallagher often works collaboratively with clients, performing soft ground tunnelling works before the customer takes over for the hard rock mining development, while Gallagher leaves a small crew on-site for additional drill and blast and other works. This provides a more cost-effective solution to customers’ needs.

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