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Mark Thurston resigns from delayed and scaled-back rail project

Mark Thurston to leave government-owned company as construction moves ‘into an exciting new stage’. The chief executive of the HS2 railway has resigned amid severe delays and soaring costs that have seen the project scaled back.

Mark Thurston announced on Wednesday he would be departing the government-owned company at the end of September after six and a half years at the helm – making him the firm’s longest serving chief executive.

The HS2 chair, Sir Jon Thompson, will take over as executive chair for an interim period while a new chief executive is recruited.

The scheme, which the government pledged would drive investment and economic growth in the north, has been delayed repeatedly to between 2029 and 2033 due to spiralling costs and construction difficulties. Thurston’s resignation comes as major work is taking place at more than 350 sites and the first phase of the project between London and Birmingham is at peak construction.

It follows a bruising report from parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC) last week that urged the Department for Transport (DfT) to “finally establish” its expectations for HS2’s London Euston terminus.

MPs said the government “does not know what it is trying to achieve” with the station, after its construction was paused – along with other parts of HS2 – in March by the transport secretary, Mark Harper. HS2 trains are now not expected to run in to Euston until 2041 at the earliest, after initially being scheduled for 2026.

The DfT has been under severe pressure to find cost savings on the project as soaring inflation means the cost of raw materials has increased significantly.

Part of the line between Birmingham, Crewe and Manchester was delayed by two years in the spring – meaning the line to Crewe may not be open until 2036, and it will not reach Manchester until 2043. The eastern section, between the Midlands and Leeds, was scrapped in 2021.

Paolo Sorbello

Paolo Sorbello is a journalist and researcher. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow, studying state-business relations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. He is also the Business News Editor of the weekly newspaper The Conway Bulletin.

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