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The firm behind HS2 was "dishonest and misleading" in its handling of a compensation claim from a member of the public who had to sell their home to make way for the line, a report claims.

HS2 also "failed to properly engage" with the complainant leading to a breakdown in trust, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said.

HS2 has previously been accused of poor communication with communities.

The rail firm said it accepted the findings but had changed its practices.

"This report focuses on historic issues relating to an individual property case from 2017," a spokesman said.

"In the four years since this review commenced there have been significant changes to HS2 Ltd, our responsiveness, and the complaints handling approach."

Compulsory land purchases have been necessary to make way for High Speed Two, which will link London with the West Midlands from 2026.

HS2 route
But campaign groups have long complained that the operating company does not communicate well enough with those affected, or provide compensation fast enough.

In its second investigation of the problem, the Ombudsman said HS2 failed to follow its own processes when negotiating compensation claims for their family home with the complainant.

The rail firm also failed to respond "fully and promptly" to questions the complainant had, sometimes giving false information, which caused "severe worry".

"HS2's repeated maladministration had a devastating impact on the complainant and their family," said Rob Behrens, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

"It is unacceptable that communication problems remain at HS2... [It] must properly engage with those affected by the new line, be open and transparent and follow the proper process to make sure this never happens again."

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A 2015 report by the Ombudsman found HS2 failed to engage appropriately with a community near Lichfield when consulting about the proposals for the route which now runs through their village.

At the time it called on HS2 to become more customer focused, open and accountable when dealing with complaints.

The Country Land and Business Association, which represents 28,000 landowners, land managers and rural businesses in England and Wales, said an independent body was needed to handle HS2 complaints.

Chief surveyor Andrew Shirley said: "While the scale of the infrastructure scheme often grabs the headlines, too little attention is paid to those whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by the scheme - the financial impact and prolonged emotional pressure of which is unimaginable."

He added: "One can never just hope that organisations such as HS2 will simply do the right thing - you need robust measures in place to ensure they do."

A spokesman for HS2 said it had made numerous improvements to its complaints handling processes, including recruiting a Community Engagement and Stakeholder Team of more than 100 staff and establishing a Helpdesk Team to answer queries from the public every day of the year.

He added: "We understand that residents did not choose to live along the line of the route and that for many the process of having their homes acquired will be distressing.

"HS2 Ltd endeavour to treat every land and property case with respect and compassion, while also recognising our obligations to spend taxpayers money appropriately when agreeing compensation."

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