Gareth Epps has been appointed HS2 construction commissioner on an interim basis. He will investigate any matters that are not resolved by HS2 Ltd’s own complaints process.
His appointment is on an interim basis pending the passage of the enabling legislation. Following royal assent, an independent body of project stakeholders will determine the full terms of reference and agree on a permanent appointment.
Mr Epps was previously in community relations on the Crossrail project for nine years and is a former leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Reading Borough Council. At the 2015 general election he was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Keighley and came in fifth with 2.7% of the vote. In the 2001 general election he stood against David Cameron in Witney.
His main functions as HS2 construction commissioner will be to:
- ensure that people affected by HS2 know he exists and what he does
- mediate in unresolved disputes between HS2 Ltd and individuals or bodies, including claims under the Small Claims Scheme
- monitor complaints and providing reports marking trends and providing advice on how to reduce the instance of complaints where possible.
HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby said: “We recognise that people will be affected by the construction of the line and are thoroughly committed to ensuring that those people are treated fairly and all practicable measures are taken to minimise disruption.
“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 a 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.”
Gareth 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.”