HS2 Contractor CH2M Hill has today, the day Brexit was triggered, decided to hand back the £170m contract for HS2 Phase 2b delivery partner which it was awarded earlier this year. Rival bidder Mace had been threatening to take legal action concerning the award of the contract, due to the number of HS2 Ltd staff, including then CEO Roy Hill, who were working at HS2 Ltd on secondment from CH2M, and a general revolving door recruitment policy between the two organisations, reminiscent of the Solyndra scandal which CH2M were involved with in the USA in 2011.
CH2M were previously awarded the £70m Phase 1 delivery partner contract, which came in 49% over-budget at £104m. In March last year they were awarded the £350m Phase 1 development partner contract, at a time when several CH2M staff were working at HS2 Ltd on the delivery partner contract.
A CH2M spun the reasoning for their withdrawal, with a spokesman saying: “The protracted delays and ongoing speculation risk further delays to this critical national infrastructure, thereby increasing costs to UK taxpayers, as well as to the firm. CH2M remain fully committed to working with HS2 Ltd on delivering Phase 1 on time and within budget.”
However, the reality in terms of “getting HS2 delivered on time” is that earlier this week, HS2 Ltd delayed the award of £8.6bn worth of Phase 1 construction contracts, and last month it was revealed Hopscotch Consultancy, which had been awarded a £280,000 contract to ‘educate’ primary school children as to the benefits of the project, had only managed to contact eight schools in four months. In 2014, it was revealed that the very first set of contracts HS2 Ltd awarded for ‘professional services’ were budgeted for £101m, but came in at £188m, 86% over budget.
Parliamentary insiders have told the Stop HS2 campaign that despite HS2 Ltd insisting in public there have been no delays to the project, internally, they accept construction is unlikely to start this year.
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign Manager responded:
“The fact CH2M Hill have walked away from this contract is clearly an admission guilt over of conflict of interest, and they hope doing this now at a good time to bury bad news means their other contract awards will not be investigated. The only reason HS2 was proposed in the first place was due to strong lobbying from vested interests in the construction industry, and a complete lack of any budgetary control over contacts proves HS2 is crony capitalism at its’ worst. With the next set of contracts running into the billions, we call on Government to immediately investigate the award of all HS2 contracts.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said
“Most people don’t want HS2, seeing it as an exorbitant waste of taxpayers money. With this particular contract, only an idiot would think that such an apparently clear conflict of interest would pass without any comment.”
“What is astounding though is the claim that they are doing it to alleviate further delays. HS2 is seriously behind schedule. Royal Assent for Phase 1 had been due in 2015, but was only got in the last few weeks. Phase 2 is also behind.”