Key second meeting between client and losing bidder Mace postponed again

HS2 has once again delayed the award of its £170m development partner role to CH2M on the second phase of the megaproject.

The client was originally meant to ink the deal with the American engineer late last month, but has repeatedly delayed the award after losing bidder Mace questioned the decision.

A second key meeting between HS2 and Mace has been put back again from this week to next, Building understands.

Building revealed on Tuesday that Mace has appointed a QC to help advise it, with a view to a potential legal challenge.

Mace is believed to be particularly concerned that its bid was compromised because of the recent decision by HS2 Ltd, which is responsible for building the network, to appoint CH2M European managing director Mark Thurston as its new chief executive.

Thurston joined earlier this month and replaces interim Roy Hill, who was himself seconded to the client from CH2M and will return to the engineer at the end of this month.

HS2 chairman David Higgins brought in extra safeguards specifically for the contract CH2M eventually won to head off accusations of favouritism. These included an independent assurance panel and a special board sub-committee to review the process.

A Mace spokesperson 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.

“We continue to listen closely to the advice from our expert legal team, and are reviewing our next steps.”

CH2M referred enquires to HS2. A HS2 spokesperson said: “We’re in discussion with one of the bidders and will make a statement in due course.”