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Higgins to succeed Oakervee at HS2

Network Rail chief executive David Higgins will succeed Doug Oakervee as chairman of High Speed 2 (HS2) Ltd, it was announced last week.

Oakervee, who took the helm at the promoter of the controversial £50bn rail link in April last year, will leave at the end of 2013.

He pledged that the critical hybrid bill would be presented to the House of Commons by then to pave the way for construction of HS2.

Higgins will replace Oakervee on 1 January 2014 in a part-time role before becoming full-time chairman in March.

Oakervee said: “I believe HS2 is vital to the growth of the UK economy and will deliver the capacity our rail network sorely needs.

“Sir David is the right man to continue the delivery of this project. I am delighted at his appointment and am confident that alongside our chief executive Alison Munro, he will continue to drive the scheme forward.

“I am proud of all that I have achieved, particularly that we will be bringing the hybrid bill to Parliament by the end of the year, after which I will be standing down.

“I am pleased to have been able to play a key role in delivering this project which will serve the country for many generations to come.”

Higgins said: “Working at Network Rail, I know the challenges we have ahead with capacity on the railways – they are real and we need to take action now. I also know the significant benefits that improved journey times between our northern cities will bring not just to the North, but to the UK economy as a whole.

HS2 is the right solution. It is vital for both passengers and the economy and will put the UK in a different league in terms of infrastructure. My first priority will be to rigorously scrutinise costs to ensure they remain under control.

“HS2 presents a strategic opportunity for this country and I am determined to make sure we take it by delivering a railway that will allow business and communities to prosper in the long term.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin this month said Oakervee and Higgins were “following in the footsteps” of great 19th century engineers Brunel and Stephenson with the HS2 scheme to link London with the North.

His comments came after the Public Accounts Committee warned that the government had failed to prove that the proposed rail link was worth its price tag.

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