Simon Kirby is leaving HS2 for a new job with Rolls-Royce as chief operating officer.
Mr Kirby joined HS2 Ltd in May 2014 on a salary of £750,000 a year. He was previously on the board of Network Rail as managing director of its infrastructure projects business. Before this he worked in the defence industry, variously with VSEL, GEC Marconi and BAE Systems.
He made no suggestion that his departure in any way reflected any lack of confidence in the £55bn project’s future. “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,” he said. “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.”
HS2 chairman David Higgins said: “I am delighted for both Simon and Rolls Royce that he has been appointed to this position. Whilst naturally we will miss his experience and leadership, I also recognise that he is joining a truly great, global company in an industry in which he has previously worked.
“In his two and half years with the company, Simon has used his vast experience to recruit and shape a world class team which over the coming years and decades will turn HS2 into a reality that will be of lasting benefit to this country.
“That team will continue that process as we start and complete the process of finding Simon’s successor.”
David Higgins also revealed that Mel Ewel, the former chief executive of Amey, had joined the board of HS2 as a non-executive director. “His great experience in the construction industry speaks for itself, as does the huge respect in which he is held. As such he will be a great asset to the board’s deliberations as we move to the point of construction,” he said.