The present head of London and Continental Railways has been named as the new chief executive of Crossrail

Rob Holden, who made his name building the successful High Speed 1 line linking the Channel Tunnel to London’s St Pancras station, will take over Europe’s biggest construction project on 1 April.

When Holden takes over, Douglas Oakervee, the £16bn scheme’s executive chairman, will become non-executive chairman until Terry Morgan, the Tube Lines chief, takes over later this year.

Holden said he was excited to be working on the “massive” project. However, experts are warning that Crossrail will be a tougher task than the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), in part because of its high political profile. Rail commentator Christian Wolmar said: “At the CTRL, the politics had been sorted out before he got there. Crossrail will be very difficult.”

Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, said: “Crossrail has changed from being a railway line into the Hoover Dam. It was always big and complicated, but is now big, complicated and symbolic.”

Holden’s appointment was widely expected, with rail sources suggesting it had been delayed because of pay negotiations.