HS2 ignored warnings about a contractor’s ability to build a key station before awarding it the £1.3bn tender, according to a High Court claim.
HS2 acknowledged a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Vinci was “severely under-resourced [and] a real risk to the safe and timely completion and handover” of the crucial Old Oak Common station in northwest London, the claim states.
Despite this, the contract was handed down to the two firms, which have pledged to complete the station by 2026.
The alleged concerns, first reported by the Sunday Times, emerged in a legal claim filed to the High Court by US engineering firm Bechtel.
Bechtel, which was a rival bidder for the Old Oak Common contract, is suing HS2 over claims its procurement process was unfair.
HS2 said it had “very low confidence” in the ability of Balfour Beatty and Vinci to “manage, deliver and assure the works”, according to Bechtel.
Old Oak Common will be a key station on the HS2 line, as it will also provide an interchange with Crossrail. As part of the contract, the construction firms will transform former railway yards into platforms above and below ground and will create a new housing development.
Bechtel had also been in the running for the development of Euston station, but pulled out to focus on Old Oak Common. Last year the company won a £170m contract to deliver phase 2b of HS2, which will stretch from Crewe to Manchester, and the West Midlands to Leeds.
The claims are the latest scandal to hit the troubled railway project and will be an added blow to transport secretary Chris Grayling, who is facing calls to resign amid fears about his ability to deliver the new railway.
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Grayling has also faced criticism over a £33m settlement with Eurotunnel following his decision to award three suppliers with contracts to provide extra ferries in a no-deal Brexit. The transport secretary’s troubles were compounded when it emerged one of the contractors, Seaborne Freight, did not own any ships and had never run a ferry service before.
HS2 has said the joint venture scored highly in its grading process and added it is confident the procurement process was “robust”.