Simon Kirby is to leave Network Rail to become boss of High Speed 2 promoter HS2 Ltd.
Kirby will join HS2 in June as chief executive - construction, where he will be responsible for leading the project through its construction phase.
Current chief executive Alison Munro will remain on the project, but will be focused solely on the Parliamentary approval process. She will retain her title until September when she will become managing director of development.
At that time Kirby will assume the full role of chief executive.
Kirby is currently managing director of Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects division, where he heads up a multi-billion pound investment to improve the country’s railways. The rail operator said a search had begun to find a suitable candidate to replace him.
Kirby’s appointment completes a high-powered line up at the helm of the mega-project, with Sir David Higgins having joined formally as chairman at the beginning of January.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said Kirby was an “exemplary candidate”.
In his 10 years at Network Rail, Kirby has overseen the largest investment programme in Britain’s railway since the Victorian era – a programme which, since his appointment, has seen almost £25bn invested in improving the railway, including landmark schemes such as the transformation of King’s Cross in London, the modernisation of Reading station, the Thameslink programme and the refurbishment of the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland.
Kirby has also been responsible for transforming Network Rail’s relationship with its key suppliers, as is widely recognised in the industry.
CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said his appointment was “thoroughly deserved” and said he was the “ideal candidate”.
HS2 chairman David Higgins said he was delighted to have lured Kirby to the role: “Delivering this project in a way which is not just cost effective, but also delivers its benefits to as much of the country as soon as possible, is a huge engineering project, but Simon has proven throughout his career that he is capable of taking on such a unique challenge.
Kirby will be paid a bonus-free salary of £750,000.