David Higgins, the Olympic boss who has been appointed chief executive of Network Rail, has said it was the “complexity of the organisation and its projects” that lured him to the role

Higgins will leave the Olympic Delivery Authority, where he has been chief executive for five years, in February to join Network Rail. The move was announced on Tuesday, raising concerns among contractors that the project could suffer in its final stages.

Higgins said he was approached about the Network Rail role after the organisation - where he has been a non-executive director for five months - started its application process. He said: “I did not go looking, or initially apply. I was approached a few months ago and it was suggested that I should put my name in the ring.

I did not go looking but it was suggested that i should put my name in the ring

David higgins

“He said that he had the support of John Armitt, the ODA’s chairman, who is himself a former Network Rail chief executive. He added: “I have enormous confidence in the team I’m leaving behind.”

When asked how he felt about leaving one high-pressured role for another, he said: “Of course in an ideal world there would be a break between these things, but it doesn’t always happen like that.

“Higgins will be replaced at the ODA by Dennis Hone, who has been director of finance and corporate services at the organisation for more than four years. Like Higgins, he joined from English Partnerships, where he was chief operating officer.

Higgins will leave the ODA just after the first Olympic venue is completed, but six months before the major building phase on the Olympic park is scheduled to end.

Iain Coucher, his predecessor at Network Rail, will step down at the end of October after a turbulent three-year tenure. It has been reported Higgins will receive less than the £613,000 basic salary paid to Coucher, although more than his ODA pay.