HS2 has appointed former Olympic delivery manager Mark Thurston as chief executive - replacing Simon Kirby, who left the company last year.
Thurston joins HS2 from engineers CH2M where he had senior roles on Crossrail and the 2012 Games and most recently was managing director of the company’s European division.
His appointment comes after a five-month global search by HS2, which reviewed some 20 potential candidates working on projects in America, Australia and Asia as well as in the UK.
According to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, Thurston will receive a base salary of £535,000 per year, plus a potential bonus of up to £53,500. As HS2 chief executive, Kirby was the UK’s highest paid civil servant with a salary of £750,000 a year.
Thurston has spent more than 30 years in the rail industry with stints at Transport for London, The Nichols Group and Metronet.
He joined CH2M in 2008 and - as part of the CLM delivery team, a consortium between CH2M Hill, Laing O’Rourke and Mace - worked as programme delivery manager for roads and bridges on the 2012 Olympics.
He also headed up CH2M’s programme partner joint venture on Crossrail alongside Nichols and Aecom.
The search for a new chief executive to lead the £55.7billion project began after Kirby announced his decision to leave the firm and join Rolls-Royce after two-and-half-years with HS2.
Thurston will take over the role from interim chief executive and CH2M colleague Roy Hill in the spring.
The decision to appoint Thurston comes just weeks before HS2 is expected to announce a development partner for phase two of the line.
CH2M has been shortlisted for that contract, alongside a Mace / Turner & Townsend joint venture and fellow American engineers Bechtel.
HS2 chairman 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.’