An investigation into HS2 Ltd’s failure to communicate with a family about acquiring their home

Foreword from the Ombudsman

This report is about how HS2 failed to properly engage and communicate with a complainant over the sale of their family home to make way for the trainline.

HS2 continuously let this person and their family down by misleading them and not following the proper process. This caused them severe stress and worry which impacted on their health and family life for over four years.

To add insult to injury, the complainant had already suffered from HS2 delays to his community’s response to the original HS2 public consultation. We published a report in 2015 about this which found HS2 failed to appropriately engage with the same community near Lichfield when consulting about the proposals.

HS2 should have been repairing an already fractured relationship following our 2015 report. However when the complainant asked questions, HS2 failed to respond fully and promptly, sometimes giving incorrect information.

HS2’s delay in responding and engaging with the complainant left his family in limbo for years. This exacerbated the already stressful situation of having to sell their family home and led to a deterioration in the complainant’s health.

This report highlights the importance of proper engagement and communication by all government bodies with members of the public. Being open and transparent with the public is an essential component of good public service and administration.

The case directly links to our report about HS2 which was published in 2015. At the time we recommended improvements to ensure HS2 would be more customer focused, open and accountable when handling complaints. While these recommendations were accepted by HS2 and some improvements were made, this case suggests that problems remain in the communication and engagement with those affected by the trainline and there is still work to do.

We are laying this individual investigation report in Parliament today given the links it has to the systemic report we laid in 2015 and to help inform Parliament’s ongoing scrutiny of HS2.

It is vital that HS2 implements our recommendations and considers the learning from this case so that further improvements to how it engages with the public can be made. This will help to ensure the same mistakes do not happen to others and they do not have to experience the distress that this family went through.

Rob Behrens CBE Ombudsman and Chair,

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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