Belfast Telegraph

Rail industry veteran Mark Thurston named as new HS2 chief executive

The new boss of the company responsible for designing and building the £55.7 billion HS2 high-speed rail network has been named.

Mark Thurston was appointed chief executive of HS2 Ltd following a five-month recruitment search, the firm said.

He will replace Simon Kirby, who announced in September that he was moving to a senior role at aerospace giant Rolls-Royce.

Mr Thurston began his career in the rail industry more than 30 years ago as an apprentice with Transport for London before holding positions at a number of infrastructure companies.

He worked on delivering the 2012 London Olympics and Crossrail, and currently oversees the European operations of engineering firm CH2M.

Mr Thurston will receive an annual base salary of £535,000, a pension allowance of £65,000 and a potential bonus of up to 10% of his base salary.

Construction work on phase one of HS2 from London to Birmingham will start in the spring, subject to its parliamentary Bill getting royal assent in the coming weeks.

HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins said: " Mark not only knows the UK rail industry from the bottom up, but has worked for organisations operating at the highest level globally.

"His grasp of how to manage the transition from page to reality makes him not only the right person to take over at HS2 as we are on the verge of royal assent, but also to see it through the years leading up to the first train being commissioned.

"The challenge is huge in terms of the task and timescale, but the board believes Mark has the knowledge, experience and leadership qualities to deliver the project within the budget we have been given and to do so in a way that recognises our responsibility both to Parliament and the communities in which we will be operating."

Mr Thurston, who will begin his new role in the spring, said: " HS2 is arguably the most important investment in infrastructure in the UK for a generation, which will serve businesses and communities across much of the country.

"I am looking forward to leading the HS2 team and its partners to deliver a railway that will transform connectivity between our major cities and regions."

Phase one is due to open in December 2026, with a second Y-shaped phase launching in two stages.

Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will open in 2027 and phase 2b, from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, will begin operation in 2033.