HS2 Ltd’s chief executive has announced his resignation amid major delays and cost pressures for the high-speed railway project.
Mark Thurston will leave the role in September after six-and-a-half years leading the Government-owned company.
Thurston’s resignation announcement comes while Phase One of the project between London and Birmingham is at peak construction, with major work taking place at more than 350 sites.
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He said: “Leading this organisation has been the highlight of my career and a privilege from the first day.
“The programme has come such a long way and I want to thank everyone who has worked on the project during my time.
“The next 18-24 months will see the project move into an exciting new stage. I have agreed with the board that someone else should lead the organisation and programme through what will be another defining period for HS2.”
Thurston is HS2 Ltd’s longest serving chief executive. The role was previously held by Simon Kirby (2014-2017) and Alison Munro (2009-2014).
When Thurston leaves at the end of September, HS2 Ltd chairman Sir Jon Thompson will become executive chairman for an interim period while a new chief executive is recruited.
HS2 Ltd’s latest annual report shows Thurston was paid a salary of £617,300 in the 2021/22 financial year, when he also received benefits worth £5,400.
HS2 was initially scheduled to open in 2026, but this has been delayed to between 2029 and 2033 due to construction difficulties and rising costs.
A budget of £55.7 billion for the whole project was set in 2015, but the target cost excluding the eastern leg of Phase 2b from the West Midlands to the East Midlands has soared to between £53 billion and £61 billion at 2019 prices.
In March, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced work at Euston would be paused for two years as costs had ballooned to £4.8 billion compared with an initial budget of £2.6 billion.
Harper said: “I’d like to thank Mark Thurston for his work over the last six years progressing Britain’s most transformative rail project.
“As well as successfully overseeing the start of construction, he has ensured HS2 has created tens of thousands of skilled jobs and apprenticeships across the country.
“As HS2 enters its next phase, the Government remains committed to unlocking all the benefits of this flagship infrastructure scheme – increasing rail capacity, connecting communities and growing the economy.”