High-profile engineer Norman Haste resigns from two key UK posts to pursue opportunities in the Middle East

Norman Haste, the former chief executive of Heathrow Terminal 5 and Crossrail, has joined Laing O'Rourke as chief operating officer of the Middle East business.

In the past fortnight Haste has left senior posts at engineering consultant High-Point Rendel, where he was operations director, and the Severn Bridge crossing, where he has been chairman since 2000.

It is understood that he will start at Al Naboodah-Laing O'Rourke in Dubai next week. A source close to Haste said: "He has got another job with a construction firm, working for it overseas. He is abroad at the moment."

A second source said that Haste was in Dubai preparing for his job.

Al Naboodah-Laing O'Rourke's work includes the Burj Dubai project, which is to be the world's tallest building, and Dubai international airport. Workers on the tower recently rioted over their pay and conditions.

Haste had ties with Laing long before it was bought by Ray O'Rourke in 2001, having been its director of special projects and project director of its Sizewell B nuclear plant contract in the 1980s.

Haste was dubbed "the Brunel of the 20th century" after building the Severn Bridge crossing near Bristol on time and on budget. He later joined the £10bn Crossrail project but shocked the industry by resigning last year.

Haste was expected to take on a high-profile job after Crossrail, and was even mentioned as a candidate for chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, the organisation that is overseeing the construction of facilities for the 2012 London Games.

But again he surprised people by opting for a lower rank job at High-Point Rendel.

A former colleague of Haste at Laing said he was surprised that the 61-year-old had not chosen to retire given that he had had such a successful career.

Haste was awarded with an OBE in 1997 and has also received a Gold Medal from the Institution of Civil Engineers.

The appointment will be a boost for Ray O'Rourke, the chairman of Laing O'Rourke, who has faced a storm of criticism for a speech in which he said building sites were "no place for women".

He has since added that he was arguing for better working practices to attract more women into the industry.

Haste’s career so far

  • 2005-06 Operations director, High-Point Rendel
  • 2002-05 Chief executive, Crossrail
  • 1996-2002 Project director, Heathrow Terminal 5
  • 1990-95 Project director, Severn crossing
  • 1985-90 Project director, Sizewell B
  • 1984-85 Director of special projects, John Laing