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New HS2 boss on the gravy train as pay rises sixfold
[January 18, 2014]

New HS2 boss on the gravy train as pay rises sixfold

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A new chief executive has been appointed to run HS2 at a salary of pounds 750,000 - six times that of the current boss of the high-speed rail project.

In one of his first acts as the new HS2 chairman, the outgoing Network Rail chief executive, Sir David Higgins, has recruited one of his old colleagues, Simon Kirby, the track operator's managing director of infrastructure projects, as chief executive.

Higgins was brought in to steer home the controversial pounds 42.6bn scheme on time and budget, and pledged last week to make savings in the face of concerns that costs could rise. The budget was increased by pounds 10bn last June and opponents fear it could go higher, although about pounds 14bn is earmarked for contingencies.

HS2 insisted that Kirby, who was in charge of landmark schemes for Network Rail such as the redevelopment of King's Cross station in London, the Forth bridge overhaul and the Thameslink upgrade, would help drive down costs - other than the chief executive's salary.

When construction starts and HS2 Ltd grows, the nature of the chief executive's role will change considerably, a spokesman said. Kirby will not receive a bonus from HS2 but will receive a pounds 300,000 loyalty bonus from Network Rail in April, just before he leaves.

The current chief executive, Alison Munro, was paid about pounds 115,000 but is expected to see her salary rise as she becomes HS2's managing director of development in September, to oversee the hybrid bill's passage through parliament and the development of the second phase of HS2, when the London-Birmingham line is extended to Manchester and Leeds.

Higgins, who is paid pounds 597,000, said: "As I start my tenure as chairman of this essential project that will free up much-needed capacity on our crowded railways, I am extremely pleased that we have secured Simon to run what will be the biggest infrastructure project in Europe, and one of the biggest in the world." Executive pay in the sector came under further scrutiny as Network Rail lost its appeal against a pounds 500,000 fine for safety breaches when a 10-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries at a level crossing.

The judge, Lord Thomas, said directors should have been further penalised. While bonuses were adjusted downwards, he said: "The bonuses should have been very significantly reduced." Captions: pounds 10bn The rise in the HS2 budget last June. Opponents of the controversial railway fear the project's cost may increase further (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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