HS2 Ltd welcomes the report by the Committee and take the recommendations made within it very seriously. A project of the scale, complexity and duration of High Speed Two will inevitably have an impact on local communities. As such, there is a need to engage across a vast range of communities with individuals whose concerns and needs vary. This represents one of the largest ever communications and engagement challenges faced by an infrastructure project in this country, and is absolutely integral to its wider success.
Given the scale, extend and duration of the project we recognise that we need to take our engagement to a different level. We fully accept there is room for improvement in terms of the way we work with local communities along the route and the way in which we deal with complaints when they arise. Whilst, as noted in the Committee’s report, HS2 Ltd has already made progress in developing a more customer-focused culture and in ensuring that robust processes and procedures are in place. We know that more needs to be done to address some of the concerns raised by the Committee and our response to these findings is part of that process.
We are keenly aware of the need to bring about a step change in our community engagement operations and are taking decisive action to ensure we have a stronger presence on the ground in the local communities affected by HS2. Over the past six months we have increased resources considerably within our engagement teams along the line of the Phase One route. We are recruiting an experienced Director of Community Relations who will report directly to the Chief Executive and will champion community engagement.
We recognise there is currently a void to fill for those who engaged with us through the community forum process and a new approach is being finalised and will be implemented once all nine of our Community Engagement Managers are in place and embedded within their community areas.
The independent review carried out by Ian Bynoe has now concluded and his report was published on Gov.uk in April. Mr Bynoe acknowledged that progress had been made since the PHSO report was published in November and made 13 recommendations and one suggestion. We have now published a full response to each of these. The report and our response can be accessed via the following link:
We have continued to refine our processes for complaints handling and have recently changed our procedure to ensure greater clarity. Training in complaints handling is mandatory for all staff who join HS2 Ltd and we now provide refresher training and workshops for those staff who have been working on the project for some time.
Developing a strong customer focus has been central to our new approach to engaging with the public. We now have a 24-hour helpdesk and we are looking at how our digital communications can be supplemented with additional local digital channels that provide opportunities for more interaction. We will also be carrying out research to understand in more detail the requirements of those affected by plans for HS2.
We take on board the comments about the role of the Residents’ Commissioner. This was an area highlighted by Mr Bynoe in his report and we have discussed the recommendations with the Commissioner. She will now have access to reports on all complaints relating to her field of responsibility and will meet with the Department for Transport’s Independent Complaints Assessors so they can better understand each other’s roles.
10 June 2016