HS2 Ltd CEO, Mr Mark Thurston, has confirmed he will depart the government-owned organisation leading construction of the new London - Birmingham - Manchester high-speed line, which is currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project, this autumn.

Thurston joined HS2 Ltd in March 2017, shortly after the organisation secured Royal Assent for Phase One of the project, the 227km stretch from London to Birmingham, construction on which is underway.

With this phase of the project set to transition to railway systems over the next 18-24 months, Thurston confirmed that it is his intention to let someone else lead this stage. “I have agreed with the board that someone else should lead the organisation and the programme for what will be another defining period for HS2,” Thurston says.

HS2 Ltd chairman, Sir Jon Thompson, will serve as executive chairman for an interim period after Thurston stands down at the end of September while a recruitment of his successor takes place. Thompson will be supported at board level by deputy chair, Ms Elaine Holt.

HS2 Ltd describes Thurston as building the capability of the organisation to enable it to be an effective project manager. HS2 Ltd secured the government’s approval to transition to major construction work in 2020 and the project has since mobilised a workforce of 28,500, including 1200 apprentices. Work is now taking place at more than 350 sites between London and the West Midlands.

Thurston’s departure follows the government’s announcement in March that it would delay delivery of Phase 2a of HS2, the section from Birmingham to Crewe, by two years, prioritising the section between Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street. The government cited “significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs" for the decision, which was widely criticised by the rail industry.

The status of the planned London terminus at Euston is also uncertain, with trains not now expected to reach here until 2041, according to most recent estimates.

The start of HS2 services between Old Oak Common and Birmingham is now scheduled for between 2029 and 2033. Services to Crewe are not expected until at least 2036 and Manchester 2043.

Most of the eastern HS2 branch to Leeds was scrapped in 2021. The cost of the high-speed project has increased significantly from £33bn in 2010 to at least £71bn.

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