Employees at the lead consulting firm for the struggling California bullet train project were told to “shut up” and threatened with termination if they talked about the costly infrastructure project, according to a report this week.
“I was told to shut up and not say anything,” Mark Styles, who worked for WSP, told the Los Angeles Times. “I was told that I didn’t understand the political arena the project was in. I told them I am not going to shut up. This is my job.”
The Times spoke to a half dozen current and former senior officials, who said the culture that threatened to punish or terminate employees who didn’t promote the company line explains why the project has gone on for more than 10 years despite warnings about its risks and money issues.
“If I was to give a talk at a construction conference, I would say they were not following generally accepted project management principles,” project controls coordinator Todd Bilstein told the outlet, adding that failures included estimating costs, scheduling construction and managing change orders.
“Revealing bad news was discouraged,” he added. “I just couldn’t continue to work there. I don’t work that way. American professionals don’t work that way.”
A spokeswoman for WSP told the LA Times: “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.”