A NEW report published today accuses HS2 Ltd of being ‘dishonest, misleading and inconsistent’ in its dealings with people affected by construction of the high speed line.
The company has responded by describing the case as ‘historic’, and saying that it has since changed its ways.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman highlights the case of one family which suffered from HS2’s failure to ‘properly engage and communicate’ when the sale of their home triggered an entitlement to compensation. It adds that the case was ‘repeatedly mismanaged’.
These findings come six years after a previous report by the Ombudsman came to similar conclusions, when it said HS2 Ltd had ‘failed to engage appropriately’ with a community near Lichfield when consulting about the proposals for the route which now runs through their village.
The report reveals how the current complainant ‘had already suffered from HS2’s delays to their community’s response to the original public consultation. HS2 should have been repairing an already fractured relationship but when the complainant asked questions, HS2 failed to respond fully and promptly, sometimes giving false information. This exacerbated an already difficult situation and caused them and their family severe worry over a number of years.’
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: ‘It is unacceptable that communication problems remain at HS2 despite our 2015 report which highlighted their failings in engagement with a community on the HS2 route.
‘HS2 must properly engage with those affected by the new line, be open and transparent and follow the proper process to make sure this never happens again.’
The Ombudsman also upheld one aspect of the complaint about the Independent Complaints Assessors, as they had not directly addressed one of the key concerns about HS2’s complaint handling.
While improvements were made following the 2015 report, the Ombudsman has recommended that HS2 and the ICAs should formally apologise to the complainant, publish what has been learned from this case, and consider whether this has wider implications for improving complaint handling. HS2 and and the ICA have accepted this.
HS2 Ltd said it accepted the findings but that it had now changed its practices. It explained: ‘This report focuses on historic issues relating to an individual property case from 2017.
‘In the four years since this review commenced there have been significant changes to HS2 Ltd, our responsiveness, and the complaints handling approach.’