Mark Wild left Elizabeth line two years ago to take up top role at gas distribution firm

The former boss of Crossrail is being tipped to land the chief executive’s role at HS2.

Mark Wild was parachuted into Crossrail, now called the Elizabth line, in November 2018 to take over running of the delayed scheme after it announced in August that year it would bust its end of 2018 opening deadline.

HS2 has been looking for a new chief since Mark Thurston left last summer after six years in the role.

Mark Wild in high vis wear at Liverpool Street station

Mark Wild spent more than five years running Crossrail

One industry insider said: “I think [Wild] would be a very popular and logical appointment. I’m not sure there is anyone better. I, like a few others, put his name forward when asked who should succeed Mark Thurston.”

Another insider said rumours about Wild joining HS2 had emerged in the past few weeks, adding he would be a good fit for the job given his experience of Crossrail. “The next stages need a focus on systems. That was his focus on [Crossrail] as most of the civils was complete when he joined.”

>> See also: Mark Wild interview: why Crossrail will be worth the wait

Since Thurston left, HS2 has been run by Sir Jon Thompson, an accountant, who was formerly in charge of HMRC. But his lack of experience of contracting and public comments on escalating costs have rubbed some up the wrong way.

He told MPs last year that “the government decision to let a cost-plus contract [on HS2] where there are very few incentives or penalties around them, does not provide me with any real levers on those contractors to do better in relation to schedule and costs”.

One chief executive said. “We are not going to take a lump sum when the design is incomplete, the design keeps changing, we don’t know what’s in the ground, we don’t know the specification and we don’t know about the utility diversions.

“If he had said, ‘we have an opportunity to improve cost control’, then fine, I’d give him a pat on the back. But he didn’t.”

Wild left Crossrail two years ago and is currently boss of gas distribution Southern Gas Networks. 

In the first few months of running Crossrail, Wild said the to-do list to complete the railway was 250,000 items long.