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Court date set for HS2 Old Oak Common contract dispute

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Engineering and construction firm Bechtel now has a court date set to enable its appeal against the award of the HS2 £1bn Old Oak Common station construction partner contract.

Bechtel had originally lodged a legal challenge in February 2019 claiming that HS2 Ltd accepted an “abnormally low bid” when it awarded its contract for Old Oak Common construction partner to BBVS – a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Group, Vinci Construction and Systra.
The Bechtel claim initially prevented HS2 Ltd from signing contracts with BBVS. Bechtel dropped the challenge in August 2019, meaning contracts could be signed, and construction is currently underway at the West London site.

Despite dropping its challenge against the lifting of the suspension order, Bechtel is still pursuing legal action for damages, with a trial now set to take place next month. High Court judge Mr Justice Pepperal set the start of the three week trial for 7 October, with evidence hearings due to conclude on 22 October. Two days of oral closings will then take place in November, although a date has yet to be set.

Procurement Dispute

The claim centres on the procurement process leading to the award of the contract, with Bechtel questioning BBVS’ capacity to carry out the job. High Court papers obtained last year reveal that Bechtel believes that HS2 Ltd had “clearly reached a conclusion” that the tender submitted by BBVS “was severely under-resourced and posed a real risk to the safe and timely completion and handover of Old Oak Common Station”.

In addition, it claims that HS2 Ltd should have identified the BBVS tender as appearing to be “abnormally low” and should have excluded it from the bid race on that basis. But HS2 Ltd hit back in its own court submission, denying the allegations made by Bechtel, saying it has the power to adjust the resourcing of the winning tenderer prior to contract award. In particular it says that there is no basis for identifying BBVS’ tender as abnormally low.

HS2 Ltd’s official defence document submitted to the court denies “each and every allegation” in Bechtel’s claim. It adds that while Bechtel’s bid scored higher than BBVS in terms of quality, it “scored significantly lower on price”. HS2 Ltd’s defence adds that its initial concern about resources “was based on a misunderstanding of BBVS’ month one resource proposal”.

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