HS2 chairman David Higgins and Mace chief Mark Reynolds due to meet

Mace is expected to decide within days whether or not to launch a legal challenge against HS2 into its handling of the award of a contract on the railway.

HS2 chairman David Higgins and Mace chief Mark Reynolds were due to have met on Wednesday following Higgins’ appearance in front of the transport select committee last week.

HS2 has awarded the £170m contract – known as phase 2B – to runner-up firm Bechtel after CH2M pulled out of the race last month.

It emerged that after CH2M was appointed, a whistleblower alerted Mace to the news that HS2’s former chief of staff Chris Reynolds was now working at CH2M.

Mace alleged that when he moved to CH2M, Reynolds was a key figure in the US company’s bid - he spent four days working with the firm’s bid team. Higgins told MPs Reynolds “should not have been involved” and admitted that, had he known about Reynolds, he would have asked CH2M to pull out.

Mace wants the contest re-run but Higgins, who said the dispute had prompted HS2 to tighten up its processes for the future, said starting the contest from scratch would take up to 12 months to complete.

The Mace bid was 15% more expensive, Higgins said, and had the lowest technical score of the three bids. Higgins said: “It’s difficult to understand how you challenge someone who is cheaper and technically better. I’m hoping we can avoid a legal challenge. It doesn’t mean to say they don’t have the right to do it.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling, appearing before the same hearing, said: “My hope is that organisations here wouldn’t seek to use the courts gratuitously.”

But Mace said its decision to query the circumstances surrounding the award was justified. A spokesperson said HS2’s “procurement process was riddled with errors” and added: “If we hadn’t raised these concerns, these serious issues would never have come out.”

At the time it withdrew, CH2M said: “CH2M has demonstrated all appropriate measures taken throughout to ensure the integrity of the procurement process. Notwithstanding these efforts, we have taken the decision to alleviate any further delays to this critical national infrastructure project which could ultimately lead to increasing costs to UK taxpayers, as well as to our firm.”