HS2 Ltd has appointed an interim 'independent construction commissioner' to manage issues relating to building the high speed rail line, which is on track to get underway next year.
Gareth Epps previously held a senior community relations role at Crossrail and has 10 years’ experience as a local authority councillor.
He will now investigate issues 'that have not reached a satisfactory conclusion' through HS2 Ltd’s complaints process and will provide 'independent, impartial decisions as well as advice'.
His main functions will include:
- ensuring that people affected by HS2 know who the construction commissioner is and what they do
- mediating in unresolved disputes between HS2 Ltd and individuals or bodies, including claims under the Small Claims Scheme
- monitoring complaints and providing reports marking trends and providing advice on how to reduce the instance of complaints where possible
Simon Kirby, HS2 Ltd chief executive, said: 'Improving our approach to affected communities is at the very top of our priority list. We are continuously striving to refine our complaints handling and improve community engagement. The appointment of an independent construction commissioner is a key part of that process.
'We have recently made improvements to our complaints procedure and we aim to respond to any complaint in a fair and timely fashion but it is important that people can have their issue considered by an impartial party if they don’t feel it’s been satisfactorily resolved.'
Mr Epps said: 'I’m looking forward to taking up this post. HS2 will be one of the largest infrastructure projects the UK has ever seen.
'Urban and rural communities will see construction and while HS2 Ltd and its contractors will take steps to minimise disruption, it is important that residents and businesses along the route know they can seek fair and independent resolution of complaints if necessary.'
Following Royal Assent for the project, an independent body of project stakeholders will determine the full terms of reference and agree on a permanent appointment.