HS2 CEO Simon Kirby steps down from role

The CEO of HS2 project, Simon Kirby is leaving HS2 for a new job with Rolls-Royce as chief operating officer.

Kirby was announced as CEO of HS2 Ltd in January 2014, but controversially did not join HS2 Ltd until June 2014, meaning he could cash in on a £300,000 ‘loyalty bonus’ from Network Rail. Not long after he and Chairman Sir David Higgins joined from Network Rail, it became evident that many of the projects they had been responsible were over budget and behind schedule, leading to then Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin ‘pausing’ electrification projects pending review.

On joining HS2 Ltd, Kirby became the highest paid civil servant in the country, earning £750,000, five times the salary of the Prime Minister. he justified this saying he could get the project in on time and budget, but since then both the budget and the timescales have gone the wrong way.

Simon Kirby made it clear that he is not leaving due to a loss of confidence in the project, saying in a statement on the government website: “HS2 is not just a highly ambitious project, but also one which will leave a lasting legacy for Britain. It has been, therefore, a huge honour to have been its Chief Executive and to have been involved in creating a leadership team made up of the best talents from this country and elsewhere. I have absolute confidence in their ability to deliver the project and, in doing so, to help transform the way we do things in this country.”

This is being refuted by many, with Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin commenting “When Simon Kirby was at Network Rail, he presided over failing projects with inflating costs and delays, but got out before anyone noticed how bad it really was. With HS2 deadlines constantly put back, spiralling costs, secret reports and devastating analyses of the project from every independent body which has investigated it, you can’t help think he is doing the same thing again, getting out before the true scale of the mess he has presided over is realised.”

“The departure of Simon Kirby will be a serious blow to those who champion HS2, though many of us are at a complete loss to see just exactly what it is he has done to justify his three-quarter of a million pay packet.”

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