American consultant’s European boss to lead £55.7bn HS2 project

HS2 has hired Amercian consultant CH2M’s European boss as its new chief executive.

Mark Thurston (pictured), who has worked at CH2M since 2008 on projects including the London 2012 Olympics and Crossrail, will start at HS2 in the spring.

Thurston fills the vacancy left by Simon Kirby, who left the top job on the £55.7bn HS2 project for an executive role at Rolls Royce last September.

He will take over the role from interim chief executive Roy Hill, who was seconded from his job as CH2M’s European managing director after Kirby’s departure.

He began his career in the rail industry over 30 years ago as an apprentice with Transport for London (TfL), before taking on a series of roles with The Nichols Group and Metronet.

Latterly at CH2M he was regional managing director overseeing CH2M’s European operations, which includes those in the UK.

HS2 said the appointment comes after a five month global search which reviewed some 20 potential candidates working on projects in America, Australia and Asia, as well as in the UK.

The chairman of HS2, David Higgins, said: “Mark not only knows the UK rail industry from the bottom up, but has worked for organisations operating at the highest level globally.

“His grasp of how to manage the transition from page to reality makes him not only the right person to take over at HS2 as we are on the verge of Royal Assent, but also to see it through the years leading up to the first train being commissioned.

“The challenge is huge in terms of the task and timescale, but the board believes Mark has the knowledge, experience and leadership qualities to deliver the project within the budget we have been given and to do so in a way that recognises our responsibility both to parliament and the communities in which we will be operating.”

Thurston said: “HS2 is arguably the most important investment in infrastructure in the UK for a generation, which will serve businesses and communities across much of the country. I am looking forward to leading the HS2 team and its partners to deliver a railway that will transform connectivity between our major cities and regions.”