Laing O’Rourke chair to sit on the government’s independent task force overseeing economic benefits of the scheme

Ray O'Rourke

Ray O’Rourke has been appointed to a independent taskforce charged with maximising the benefits of HS2 to the economy.

O’Rourke, chair of Laing O’Rourke, is a late addition to the taskforce, which was announced by the government in July, after a decision was taken to broaden the membership.

O’Rourke was appointed to the taskforce by infrastructure minister Lord Deighton.

O’Rourke said Britain had to be “bold and ambitious”: “We can’t continue to make do and mend. HS2 has the power to transform this country and its creaking transport network; in fact, it can’t come soon enough.

“Transformation is never cheap, but the more money we can send straight back into the British economy, the better. For its part, the taskforce will be doing all it can to help British businesses, including smaller firms, get a slice of the action.

“Big projects can bring big rewards and with HS2 set to become the biggest construction project in Europe, the rewards should follow.”

The taskforce, which also includes Alison Nimmo, chief executive of Crown Estate; Neale Coleman, Mayor of London’s adviser on Olympic legacy; and Tony Venables, professor at Oxford University, is charged with ensuring the project creates jobs and other benefits across the UK economy.

HS2 has recently come in for criticism. The Institute of Directors has described it as a “grand folly” and think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs argued proceeding with the project was not “economically rational”.