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  • You are here:HS2

HS2 contract saga: New line of inquiry emerges

The role of a former HS2 chief of staff in relation to CH2M’s successful bid as phase 2b delivery partner is part of ongoing discussions on a complaint over the contract, Construction News has learned.

HS2 is understood to be looking into the part played by Christopher Reynolds, a former Army officer and founder of construction consultancy and management firm Genecoe, in the US engineering giant’s tender for the £170m deal.

CH2M was confirmed as the preferred bidder for the deal last month but the official contract signing, initially expected to take place on 24 February, was delayed so HS2 could address concerns raised by failed bidder Mace over a potential conflict of interest.

Mr Reynolds appears to have been appointed as a programme director at CH2M this month.

In 2012, he held the role of chief of staff at HS2, reporting to then chief executive and now MD for development Alison Munro.

CH2M was named as the HS2 phase one development partner for the £55bn rail line in January 2012.

It is not known by Construction News as to whether Mr Reynolds played any part in the tender process in either of the two contract awards to CH2M.

In tender documents for the phase 2b development partner contract seen by Construction News, HS2 states that it is likely to regard a conflict of interest arising if a staff member or consultant engaged or employed by the tenderer, worked for or has been or is engaged by HS2 Ltd in relation to the project.

The documents add that HS2 Ltd reserves the right to disqualify tenderers where there is an “actual or potential conflict of interest” involving the tenderer or associated parties.

CN understands enquiries into Mr Reynolds’ role at HS2 are forming part of enquiries into a potential conflict of interest between CH2M and HS2.

A first meeting between Mace and HS2 officials is believed to have taken place three weeks ago, with a second meeting expected to take place this week.

It was initially understood that conflict concerns were raised over the appointment of CH2M Highways England programme director Roy Hill as HS2 interim chief executive in November 2016 and of former CH2M European MD Mark Thurston as chief executive of the project in January.

Mace has employed a QC to advise on its future course of action. Construction News this month reported that the prime minister’s office was keeping tabs on the ongoing contract saga.

Sources have told CN that HS2 anticipated a quick mobilisation of staff following the awarding of the contract, with more than 100 people expected to have started work on the development partner deal within the first six weeks.

A crucial role under the contract is to help the client body push through the hybrid bill for the second phase of the line, from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds.

According to LinkedIn, Mr Reynolds became CH2M’s programme director this month, though CH2M declined to confirm this. He is also listed as currently at Genecoe – where he has been a director since the consultancy was launched in 2005.

According to open data charity Open Spending, HS2 Ltd spent £145,795 on supplier Genecoe Ltd in 2012.

Hugh Kilpatrick, who is also listed as director and secretary of Genecoe, was formerly employed by HS2 as part of its on-boarding team for the phase one delivery partner contract – also won by CH2M – then known as CH2M Hill.

The role, according to his LinkedIn page, saw him “design and deliver the process for on-boarding the CH2M Hill team as delivery partner for the HS2 hybrid bill”.

HS2 has maintained that the procurement for the phase 2b deal was the most robust it had carried out and included CH2M enforcing a “Chinese Wall” between its bid team and those already working for HS2.

A spokesman for CH2M said the company operated to the highest levels of governance and transparency and that all those who bid for work have the right to be treated on the same basis.

He added: “As such, we are co-operating with any and all requests for clarification from HS2 and any third party.

“We have a proven track record of delivering complex and iconic infrastructure projects in the UK and around the world. This remains our focus.”

A Mace spokesman said: “Our concerns over multiple conflicts of interest during the tender process are rightly being investigated by HS2. We look forward to hearing their findings so we can review them with our QC and our expert legal team.

“When HS2 is spending hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, the public rightly expect those decisions to be made following proper processes and to be in the best interests of the UK.”

Mr Reynolds and Genecoe have been contacted for comment this week by Construction News.

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