Over the last four years, HS2 Ltd haven’t exactly impressed when it has come to communications. With hundreds of consultation responses being lost, and people whose houses would be demolished by HS2 not even being informed by them of the 2011 consultation, that may be somewhat of an understatement. There was a school of thinking that now that HS2 has reached the committee stage, HS2 Ltd would finally to up their game. Anyone who thought that was sorely mistaken.
Although there were 1925 petitions submitted about the HS2 Hybrid Bill, HS2 Ltd had, given their bloated staffing levels, a relatively simple task: to contact petitioners or their agents acknowledging the receipt of their petitions. What you may have expected would be for HS2 Ltd to set up a simple mail-merge document, with the petitioners email address, name and petition number, probably just over a days work for the lowest grade temp at Bressenden Place.
Well no, this was clearly beyond the wit and wisdom of HS2 Ltd. About a fortnight after the petitioning deadline, emails started to arrive sporadically. People who were agents for several petitioners got emails without saying which petition they referred to. Agents got emails when the petitioner had asked to be contacted directly, and vice-versa. In some cases both petitioner and agent got an email, and of course as you’d expect, some people didn’t get an email (or letter) at all.
One of the big concerns from the acknowledgement emails was the fact that HS2 Ltd planned to use a secure email system for people to get their petition response documents. The response to this proposals was a resounding ‘no’ from petitioners and agents, with the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee ‘strongly urging’ HS2 Ltd to allow petitioners to have their responses via traditional email, or even the post.
Well it seems that HS2 Ltd have decided to scrap this, the problem is that they haven’t bothered to tell people. While lots of people emailed them objecting to the secure email system, they have in the main found out because the Uxbridge Gazette reported on Wednesday that: “In the last few days HS2 has emailed petitioners saying it will scrap the sign-up system in favour of using more traditional methods of communication.”
Of course, with it now being Friday these emails still haven’t arrived in the majority of cases. On Wednesday, HS2 Ltd contacted Stop HS2 to say all petitioners or their agents had now got petition acknowledgement emails, which we know isn’t true, with one person even having been contacted about the secure email issue, but still not having had their acknowledgment email.
It is also the case that the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee said at their last meeting that they expected HS2 Ltd to have contacted all petitioners who will have their locus standi (right to be heard) challenged by today, Friday 20th June. Four days have been set aside for locus standi challenges, which will start in just over a fortnight on 9th July, and as of yet we are not aware of any petitioners being contacted about locus standi.