In November 2015, the PHSO published its Report of the results of an investigation into a complaint about High Speed 2 Ltd (HS2 Ltd). The report dealt with a group of six families whose small community faced break-up under Government plans for the new high speed rail network. The report identified a series of failings in communication and engagement and in complaints handling which amounted to “maladministration” in the opinion of the Ombudsman.
In response to the Ombudsman’s report, HS2 Ltd has apologised and has since made a number of payments to those affected totalling £10,500. Some improvements have been made to how the organisation interacts with the public, and commitments were made, both by the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd and by the Minister of State for Transport, to take a personal interest in the matter.
However, having received a large body of evidence that is highly critical of HS2 Ltd, we remain unconvinced that the necessary fundamental changes have taken place. The continuing existence of a culture of defensive communication and misinformation within a public body, responsible for the delivery of such a large and highly controversial project, is not acceptable. We urge those in senior positions to recognise that this is a matter of primary importance. Unless those responsible for delivering HS2 understand that first and foremost they serve the public, and take action to reflect this, then they will continue to be vulnerable to the criticism that they have disregard for members of the public who are impacted by this large-scale infrastructure project.
Prepared 22 March 2016