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Wed June 29 2022

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Shapps fails to find HS2 chair

10 Mar It is unclear whether no one wants to do it or whether all applicants to date have not been good enough, but the government cannot find anyone to chair HS2 Ltd.

The job, to provide oversight and leadership for Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, has been open since Allan Cook stepped down in July 2021, having handed in his notice the February before.

But after a fruitless year of looking for a replacement HS2 chair, transport Secretary Grant Shapps has ordered a “relaunch” for the search.

Applicants will be asked “to demonstrate their experience in providing world-class strategic leadership in complex settings”.

Specifics to construction and infrastructure  are avoided to attract leaders from a wider field of industries and backgrounds.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “The chair of HS2 Ltd is one of the most important transport jobs in the UK sitting at the helm of a project that will deliver on the government’s promises to boost connectivity, level up communities across the north and midlands and help the nation build back better.

“We’ve relaunched our search with new criteria designed to ensure we recruit the best and brightest candidate, ready to take on this challenge and drive forward transformation across the nation.” 

In the meantime, non-executive director Sir Jon Thompson has been named deputy chair to hold the fort. He is chief executive of the Financial Reporting Council, and has previously been a permanent secretary at both the Ministry of Defence and HM Revenue & Customs.

As deputy chair, he will chair HS2 Ltd until a permanent replacement is found. He has been a non-executive director since April 2021.

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