High Speed 2 (HS2) Ltd has appointed CH2M managing director Mark Thurston as its new chief executive.
The previous chief executive, Simon Kirby, resigned in September 2016 and left the project in December. Interim chief executive Roy Hill – who had been seconded from CH2M to fill the gap – had been tipped to take on the role permanently.
His appointment comes after a five month global search led by Heidrick and Struggles, which reviewed some 20 potential candidates working on projects in America, Australia and Asia, as well as in the UK.
HS2 Ltd said that Thurston began his career in the rail industry over 30 years ago as an apprentice with TfL, before fulfilling a series of roles with The Nichols Group, Metronet, and, working for CH2M since 2008, on the London 2012 Olympics and Crossrail, where he was lead for the Programme Partner joint venture for three years.
He is currently the regional managing director overseeing CH2M’s European operations, which includes those in the UK.
HS2 Ltd 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.”
Thurston will start with HS2 Ltd in the Spring, once he has transitioned his leadership responsibilities at CH2M.
On being appointed, he 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”