Britain’s high-speed rail project announces new chief executive

A new chief executive has been named to oversee Britain’s high-speed rail project.

Former Crossrail chief Mark Wild has been selected as the new head of HS2 Ltd.

Mr Wild will lead the completion of the high-speed railway while works are carried out along the route from London to the West Midlands and focus shifts to building infrastructure to operate the railway.

The appointment comes as part of a series of reforms across the project which look to bear down on costs and deliver the scheme on time.

Mr Wild was selected following a recruitment process overseen by the HS2 Ltd board and led by Sir Jon Thompson, executive chair, with backing from Mark Harper, the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr Harper said: “HS2 between Euston and the West Midlands will provide faster connections for millions of passengers, grow the economy, regenerate communities and create tens of thousands of high skilled jobs across the country.

“Mark Wild brings a wealth of experience with him, including leading the successful delivery of Crossrail, and I have every confidence he will grip costs and robustly oversee this project to transform rail travel for generations.”

Mr Wild added: “I look forward to leading HS2 as it progresses from major construction works to its rail systems phase and beyond to the first passenger services.

“The scale and ambition of HS2 is phenomenal and will deliver wide-reaching benefits for the UK through more jobs, economic growth and better journeys.”

The new chief executive’s start date is yet to be confirmed. But his arrival follows the departure of Mark Thurston, who led HS2 Ltd for six-and-a-half years up to the end of September, 2023.

Sir Jon will continue in his current position as executive chair until Mr Wild’s arrival, when he resumes his previous role as HS2 Ltd chair.

Mr Wild’s experience includes roles in the transport and utilities industries, most recently as chief executive of SGN, the gas distribution network covering Scotland and the south east of England.

He was previously chief executive of Crossrail, now known as the Elizabeth Line, for almost four years.

Prior to Crossrail, he was managing director of the London Underground and was previously chief executive of Public Transport Victoria, the integrated transport authority based in Melbourne, Australia.

Sir Jon said: “Mark joins HS2 Ltd with unrivalled experience and a track record of successful delivery, giving confidence that he will drive this hugely complex programme to completion – providing more reliable and faster services for rail users, while boosting the economies of the West Midlands and London.

“It is a mark of the scale and ambition of HS2 that we can attract a leader of his calibre.”

SGN chairman Nick Salmon added: “We are immensely grateful to Mark for his energy, strategic vision and leadership. SGN is a key part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, playing an important role as we seek to maintain a secure and resilient energy system which underpins a net zero economy.

“SGN is in a strong position with a clear business strategy and key appointments made to the senior management team over the past two years. The organisation is in advanced preparations for the next price control and remains a leader in developing clean energy projects to repurpose the UK gas network.

“Mark will continue to lead the business for up to 12 months or until his successor is appointed and he will ensure that SGN delivers excellent service to our customers through a safe and reliable network. The search for SGN’s next CEO is already under way.”