The award of the £170m High Speed 2 phase 2b development partner contract will be delayed by at least a month, Construction News understands.
Sources close to the discussions told CN that the contract signing had now been pushed back until April at the earliest, with HS2 still investigating concerns from unsuccessful bidder Mace.
CH2M was confirmed as the preferred consultant for the deal last month but the official contract signing, initially expected to take place on 24 February, was delayed so HS2 could address Mace’s concerns of conflict of interest.
The company has not yet launched legal action but is understood to have recruited a QC and a barrister to advise on its future course of action. Mace is understood to have grown frustrated with the length of time it is taking for HS2 to conclude its investigations.
A Mace spokesman said: “It is right and proper that HS2 are taking our concerns over conflict of interest and tender process seriously.
“However, it is taking a significant amount of time for HS2 to conclude their investigations.
“We also appreciate that parliament has recognised the seriousness of our challenge and begun to exercise its duty to ensure British taxpayers’ money is being well spent by asking questions of the secretary of state for transport on this issue.”
Last week Construction News reported that the prime minister’s office was keeping tabs on the ongoing contract saga.
Mace said it would continue to listen closely to the advice of its legal team, and was reviewing its next steps.
It is understood that the second meeting between Mace and HS2, which was expected to take place today, has now been pushed back until next week.
An HS2 spokesman said: “We’re in discussion with one of the bidders and will make a statement in due course.”
A joint venture between Mace and Turner & Townsend missed out on the phase 2b delivery partner deal, having made the shortlist last summer.
Former CH2M European managing director Roy Hill was appointed interim chief executive of HS2 - on secondment from the US engineering firm - during the procurement process for the contract.
Transport minister Andrew Jones recently revealed that CH2M had seconded 37 members of staff into HS2, and that 25 of HS2’s current staff members had previously worked for the US engineering gaint.
CH2M also scooped the £100m development partner role for phase one of the £55.7bn project in 2012 and the £350m engineering delivery partner role alongside Atkins and Sener last March.
HS2 has maintained that the procurement for the phase 2b development partner deal was the most robust it has carried out and included CH2M enforcing a “Chinese Wall” between its bid team and those already working for HS2.
A spokesman for CH2M told Construction News last month: “As part the bidding process, HS2 required several levels of assurance that the team delivering the phase one programme could not influence the tender for phase two.
“CH2M abided by all required protocols to ensure no conflict of interest.”