Final thoughts from HS2 boss before ‘new challenge’


The former CEO of HS2 Ltd has issued thanks to the contractors and supply chain that built the multi-billion-pound high-speed rail line to where it is while he was in charge – while also forecasting further ‘turbulence’ for the industry over the course of the next six to 12 months. 

HS2 Ltd chief executive officer, Mark Thurston.
Former HS2 Ltd chief executive officer, Mark Thurston.

In the wake of UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, cancelling construction of the northern phase of HS2 connecting Birmingham and Manchester, former chief executive officer of HS2 Ltd, Mark Thurston, said he had opted to ‘let the dust settle’ before issuing his final statement on the matter, having recently stepped down from leading Europe’s largest infrastructure project after six-and-a-half-years.  

Many affected by the cancellation voiced their disappointment at the time, including Balfour Beatty Group chief executive, Leo Quinn, who wrote on social media the announcement was “incredibly disappointing”, and former HS2 chairman, Allan Cook, writing in The Times any decision to scale down the project would be “a betrayal of the North and our growth ambition as a country”. 

And despite describing some of the response to, and media coverage of, the cancellation to be “misplaced and even unpleasant”, Thurston said leading the project since it secured royal assent for Phase One in March 2017 had been “a huge honour and a privilege”. 

He said without its supply chain and regional support, particularly from the West Midlands, progress on the scheme so far, “often in difficult circumstances”, would not have been possible.  

Thurston announced he was leaving the organisation in July, when chairman of HS2 Ltd, Sir Jon Thompson, was also announced to take over as executive chairman for an interim period while a new CEO was recruited, supported by deputy chairperson, Elaine Holt.    

At the time Thurston described leading the organisation as the “highlight” of his career.  

Click here to read more about HS2   

“If you’re reading this, you won’t be too surprised that I’ve let most of the dust settle from recent announcements before issuing my final HS2 post, having stepped down nearly three weeks ago,” Thurston posted publicly on social media today. 

“Many others have commented on the political decision to cancel the phases north of Birmingham, with all the subsequent media coverage, some of which was misplaced and even unpleasant. 

“However, what is important for me to say is a massive thank you to the thousands of people who have helped get the project to where it is today, often in difficult circumstances, during my 6.5 years as CEO of HS2 Ltd.  

“The last update video brings some of this to life, and we wouldn’t have made this progress without a fully engaged supply chain and good political support from both Whitehall and in the regions, particularly the West Midlands. 

“Leading HS2 from just after phase one Royal Assent in early 2017, through to building the ‘HS2 family’ to 30,000 people, working right across the country on all three phases, has been a huge honour and a privilege. 

“As I now take a break before embarking on a new challenge, I wish everyone involved in the project every success. I suspect the next 6-12 months will continue to be a bit turbulent, but the determination and commitment of those involved in HS2 will I’m sure prevail.” 

Enjoyed this? Try £1.5bn housing and infrastructure framework open for bids 

Get industry news in 5 minutes!

A daily email that makes industry news enjoyable. It’s completely free.