MPs to probe HS2 contract debacle

The chair of the Transport Select Committee, Louise Ellman MP, has announced she is calling for a special session of the Committee to investigate what went wrong with procurement of HS2's Phase 2b Development Partner contract. CH2M was announced as the winner of the £170m partner contract in February, but pulled out of the deal last week before the contract could be signed, after being asked to withdraw by HS2 Ltd. This came after protests from losing bidder Mace over how the tender process was carried out.

A statement released on behalf of Louise Ellman, said: "Given the scale of HS2 and the amounts of money involved, the Transport Committee is keen to understand the reasons behind the latest developments. I will be suggesting to Committee members that we hold a session as early as possible after recess. It is important that business, industry and public have confidence in the processes involved."

Signing of CH2M's contract was initially delayed while HS2 Ltd investigated complaints including a claimed conflict of interest. CH2M director Roy Hill was appointed interim chief executive of HS2 Ltd while the procurement process for the development partner contract was ongoing. The permanent position was then handed to another CH2M man, the firm's former managing director for Europe, Mark Thurston. HS2 Ltd and CH2M have claimed a system of Chinese Walls was in place to prevent conflict of interest. Mace is understood to have issued complaints over other aspects of the procurement process, however. CH2M was also the development partner for Phase One and it is also part of the Phase One engineering delivery team with Atkins and Sener.

HS2 Ltd is now understood to have engaged in talks with the second-placed losing bidder Bechtel, but HS2 Ltd has yet to make a statement on its next steps. Confirming CH2M's withdrawal, a HS2 spokesperson said: “CH2M has decided to withdraw from the Phase Two Development Partner bid process, a decision which we welcome.”

A statement released by Mace said the firm's concerns were about HS2’s procurement process and not CH2M but that the ongoing investigation regarding conflict of interest had “clearly raised some serious questions about the process”.