HSF and Eversheds rack up £4m for HS2 advice in 2015-16 as rail project picks up speed

High-Speed-Train

Eversheds Sutherland and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) earned more than £4m for advice on the HS2 rail project during the last financial year, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The firms are advising HS2 Limited, the company responsible for developing the new railway, which will provide a high speed link between London, the Midlands and the north of England. Construction is expected to begin in 2017, with the first phase of the line set to open in 2026.

The company spent £4.1m on legal advice from Eversheds and HSF during the 2015-16 financial year, a significant increase on 2014-15, when just £942,000 was spent on external legal advice. HS2 Limited declined to specify how the fees were shared between the two firms.

Eversheds’ role on HS2 dates back to 2009, when the firm was appointed to advise on the preliminary stages of the project, before subsequently being retained to provide general legal services and property and planning work. Lawyers from the firm taking lead roles include infrastructure partner Stephen Collings and planning partners James O’Connor and Monica Peto.

HSF, meanwhile, was appointed to advise on the project in 2015. The firm is providing infrastructure, construction and rolling stock advice on what will become the first new railway north of London in 120 years. Global infrastructure head Patrick Mitchell is leading the firm’s efforts alongside global non-contentious construction and engineering co-head Nicholas Downing and fellow London partners Adrian Clough and Julia Pyke.

London law firm Winckworth Sherwood has also taken a related role, advising alongside Eversheds on securing Royal Assent for the project, which was confirmed this February. However, Winckworth was instructed by the Department for Transport, so its fees are not included in the £4.1m total.

The freedom of information request also revealed that HS2’s in-house legal staff costs were £295,000 and £655,000 for 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively. Last year, HS2 appointed former Tube Lines GC Nicole Geoghegan as general counsel and company secretary. She joined from oil and gas services provider Contract Resources Group, where she was also GC.