On the 9th February HS2 Ltd announced the appointment of its development partner and engineering and environment consultants for Phase 2b (the sections between Crewe and Manchester and between the West Midlands and Leeds) as CH2M, the same company appointed for Phase 1. Whilst this in itself is not overly irregular, the appointment has raised concerns about the close connection between CH2M and HS2 Limited’s management.
Following Simon Kirby’s resignation as Chief Executive last September, HS2 Ltd seconded CH2M’s European Managing Director, Roy Hill, to stand in as temporary Chief Executive. Mr. Hill, who had worked previously as Development Director for HS2 Phase 1 between 2012 and 2014, was much involved in the 5-month search for HS2’s permanent Chief Executive
On 26 January 2017 it was announced that the role has now been filled by Mark Thurston, formally of CH2M - a colleague of Roy Hill and someone who worked with HS2’s Chairman, David Higgins, on the Olympics.
Clearly concerns around how the appointment of the new development partner would be perceived externally were top of mind when HS2’s Commercial Director Beth West announced the decision:
“Conflict of interest is something we have tried very hard to avoid. Our robust measures to address this range from having anonymised bidders in all award approval documentation to excluding our interim CEO from attending and receiving minutes from any meetings or discussions during which the procurement might be discussed. We are determined to be fair to everyone, and that includes CH2M”.
The fact remains that in his current job at CH2M, HS2’s incoming Chief Executive, Mark Thurston, was seemingly doing the bidding for the multi-million pound contracts CH2M has now secured. It seems HS2’s chairman, David Higgins, has confirmed that Mark Thurston will sever all links with CH2M before commencing work with HS2 to avoid any conflict of interest. However, it seems to me they are suggesting shutting the gate after this horse has bolted!
There will be cynics out there who remain unconvinced by Ms West’s affirmations but let’s hope that these selection decisions have all been based on finding the best person for the job. Only time will tell.
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