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Mace decides not to take legal action against HS2

Contractor Mace has announced that it will not be going through with taking legal action against HS2 Ltd for problems that arose during the procurement of the project’s £170m phase 2b contract.

At the end of March, CH2M, the winning bidder for the civil engineering contract for the line between Crewe and Manchester and Birmingham and Leeds, pulled out of the bid following accusations that the company had a conflict of interest with HS2.

And Mace, which came third in the competition, went on to threaten legal action, stating that it had “never seen a procurement like this”.

At a Transport Select Committee hearing into the procurement in April, chairman of HS2 Ltd Sir David Higgins stated that CH2M did indeed have a conflict of interest after in emerged that an employee who worked on the bid for phase 2b had also worked at HS2 for five years, between 2011 and 2016.

Despite this, Sir David defending the process of procurement and appeal, arguing that CH2M would have been removed from the contract even if it had decided to move forward with its involvement with HS2.

At the same hearing, transport secretary Chris Grayling added that he hoped that Mace would not go forward with legal action without good grounds to.

A spokesperson for Mace now said: “In our 26 years of delivering some of the UK’s most iconic projects, including The Shard, the London 2012 Olympics and Birmingham New Street station, Mace has never taken a case to the High Court. We continue to hold that record.

“Despite the flawed process, we have decided that the importance of the scheme to the national interest, particularly the north of England, outweighs our drive for taking action.”

Mace added that it was now key for HS2 Ltd to focus its attention on delivering this essential project both on time and in budget, rather than become locked in a lengthy legal battle.

In the statement, the company also said that the recent Transport Committee session “vindicated our position” and proved that errors and poor judgement occurred during the procurement of phase 2b

“We take some comfort from the knowledge that HS2 has conceded its failings and will introduce more stringent processes for future procurement,” added the spokesperson.

The company also announced it will soon be meeting with Grayling to ensure he fully understands Mace’s perspective, and to seek further reassurances on how the process will be improved going forward.

“HS2 have also asked us to take part in a ‘lessons learned’ session to share our views on how things can be improved,” the statement continued. “When HS2 is spending hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, the public rightly expect procurement decisions to be unbiased, fair, and in the best interests of the United Kingdom.

“Without Mace's challenge and willingness to stand up and be counted, a light would never have been shone on these problems and HS2’s process would never have been changed.”

Bechtel, which came second in the original procurement, will now take responsibility for the contract.

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