High-speed rail operator condemned over comms failings

HS2 has been accused of repeated failures in communication, not being open and transparent, and 'broken promises' in its treatment of people whose homes may be under threat to make way for the controversial transport project.

HS2 comms have been criticised by Conservative MP Dame Cheryl Gillan (Pic credit: HS2)
HS2 comms have been criticised by Conservative MP Dame Cheryl Gillan (Pic credit: HS2)

The scathing attack on HS2, an executive non-departmental body sponsored by the Department for Transport, has been made by Conservative MP Dame Cheryl Gillan, a long-standing opponent of the £55.7bn infrastructure project.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on HS2 in the House of Commons earlier this month, she said: "This project has been one of poor management, poor corporate governance and failures in communication right along the way."

The MP for Chesham and Amersham had received details of "yet another failure regarding a constituent. The issue is communication; as far as I am concerned, HS2 has not learned any lessons about communication with communities."

Her constituent had concerns over the HS2 route and "has continually chased answers, only to be ignored or told that someone will get back to her".

Dame Cheryl added: "My constituent’s complaints about HS2’s engagement can be summarised in terms of sporadic communication; broken promises; incorrect information; having to chase constantly, making her feel that she is a nuisance to officials; and the trivialising of her concerns."

She said: "At the same, a very glossy engagement strategy brochure, which is a spin on public relations, has been delivered to her house."

HS2 continues to divide opinion, with many opposed to the scheme

Dame Cheryl said the taxpayer-funded project is "not transparent", with a large of number of documents redacted, and that minutes from meetings are "often meaningless" and "not published on the Government website in any timely manner."

She added: "HS2 is supposed to be committed to being an open and transparent organisation, but I am afraid that is far from the truth."

Responding to the criticisms, transport minister Nusrat Ghani MP (pictured below), said: "I agree that previously HS2 did not deal with enough efficiency or compassion with the issues raised by constituents."

She added: "We must continue to work with MPs and constituents affected, and we must work with affected landowners, businesses and residents to ensure that they are suitably compensated. We must make addressing their concerns a priority wherever we can."

Transport minister Nusrat Ghani

HS2 has a corporate affairs team of nearly 40 people.

A spokesperson for HS2 told PRWeek yesterday: "We understand how difficult the impacts of HS2 are for communities affected by construction. We work hard to ensure that their concerns are understood and impacts are addressed."

They added: "We have regular contact with individual residents and communities across the line of route, and we engage with them through face-to-face meetings, direct notifications, localised drop-in sessions, parish and district council meetings, public information events, as well as community update sessions."


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