- Employees working for WSP Global Inc. on the California bullet train project said they were discouraged from sharing bad news about the project, including a senior supervisory scheduler, who said he was told to “shut up and not say anything,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
- The employees who spoke with the newspaper claim WSP managers failed to address issues ranging from estimating costs, scheduling construction and responding to change orders. Several employees on the project said they left the infrastructure engineering firm when they understood “rocking the boat” was not considered being a team player or contributor to the project. WSP has denied the allegations.
- Montreal-based WSP is the lead consultant on the bullet train project, which has continued to face delays and cost overruns. Last month, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) predicted the project cost could reach $98.1 billion.
The first phase of the California bullet train, which will reach 520 miles when it is completed, has continued to be surrounded by controversy involving the construction timeline and changing costs. Nevertheless, work has continued to move forward.
In January, the CHSRA moved forward with a $1.6 billion Request for Proposals for a 30-year track and systems contract for the already scaled-back project despite pushback from the Federal Railroad Administration.
In 2016, the FRA warned the CHSRA that the cost could continue to jump by nearly $4 billion, thanks to the issues already surrounding the project. It has increased by more than that, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Officials involved in the project who were allegedly told to be quiet about issues, said that budget choices were made with the understanding that tracks and signals would be laid by 2022, which they say is not likely to happen. It’s more likely that the current work will be completed between 2025 and 2028.
CHSRA CFO Brian Annis told the Los Angeles Times that the construction pace is improving, but in order to reach the 2022 deadline, monthly spending would have to increase from $46 million to $70 million.
Brian Kelly, CHSRA CEO, said in a statement that the agency “takes seriously any claim of wrongdoing by an employee or contractor. We have procedures in place for any such claim to be raised and reviewed. We have an expectation that all employees act within the law and that our contractors meet the requirements of state and federal law.”
WSP disputed the claims made by the ex-workers on the project.
“We always work carefully with our client to evaluate the demands of each project and to prepare realistic and transparent recommendations regarding schedule and budget,” WSP spokeswoman Denise Turner Roth told the Los Angeles Times.