Roy Hill is emerging as front-runner to lead High Speed 2 as permanent chief executive, New Civil Engineer understands.
Hill, a director of US programme management firm CH2M, is currently acting CEO on a secondment basis. It is the second time he has led the project, having previously taken the project through its early stages as delivery director.
New Civil Engineer understands that there is now considerable support from inside the organisation for Hill to take the job on permanently. Such a move would require him severing all ties with CH2M as the organisation is actively seeking more work on the project.
Hill’s emergence as front-runner comes against the backdrop of limited options for the head-hunter to find a replacement for Simon Kirby, who left last year to take up a position at Rolls Royce.
Despite a global search and an ongoing government initiative to bring forward UK-trained major project leaders, obvious candidates are in short supply.
Current Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme has been linked with the job, but it is unclear whether government would want him leaving the job as it enters its crucial commissioning phase. It is also unclear whether Wolstenholme, who also leads the Construction Leadership Group and is expected to become ICE president in 2019, would want to take on another front-line delivery role.
Other contenders with recent, successful major delivery experience are deemed off limits having recently taken on new roles. Former Crossrail programme director Andy Mitchell would be a popular move, but Mitchell is well set as chief executive of Tideway. Meanwhile former London Underground major projects director David Waboso has recently moved to Network Rai to lead roll out of the digital railway programme.
A decision is expected in the summer, by which time the main civils contracts will have been awarded, with tenders submitted just before Christmas. It is understood that winning consortiums are expecting to be contacted in May, with an official announcement in July.
Hill, as acting CEO, will have had a significant say in the decision, strengthening the case for him taking the project into its delivery phase.
Once civils contracts are awarded effort will switch to procuring systems contracts, with prequalification now not expected to begin until December. Prequalification for station contracts will then follow in 2018. This pause will allow enough time for any firms failing to secure civils contracts to reform consortiums aimed at systems or stations deals.