'Captain Invisible' replaced: Sir David Higgins named as new HS2 chief

Current chairman Doug Oakervee will leave at the end of the year after enduring a dreadful summer in which it has been claimed that the project could end up costing £80bn

The Government’s determination to press ahead with its £42.7bn high-speed rail project was laid bare when the man dubbed “Captain Invisible” was dumped as chairman in favour of the knight who led the construction of the London 2012 Olympic Park.

Sir David Higgins, who will earn almost £600,000 a year, will take up his new role in January at the start of a crunch period for a project whose business case and spiralling costs have been the subject of public and political scorn.

The Bill that David Cameron hopes will give him the sweeping powers necessary to build and operate HS2 will be presented to Parliament in November and debated throughout 2014. MPs along the proposed route have opposed the project because of fears among constituents about the likely environmental blight of a railway designed to cut journey times and expand a crowded network.

HS2’s current chairman Doug Oakervee will leave at the end of the year. He has endured a dreadful summer in which it has been claimed that the project could end up costing £80bn, while one-time supporters including former Chancellor Alistair Darling have had second thoughts about its merits. 

Mr Oakervee, 72, who was criticised for failing to properly support chief executive Alison Munro, has dismissed HS2’s hundreds of thousands of opponents as a “quite vociferous small minority”.

Sir David’s appointment suggests that Mr Cameron and the Chancellor, George Osborne, are determined to win over the doubters. Sir David was awarded a knighthood for bringing in the Olympics under budget and on time following a difficult start that had seen costs wildly underestimated.

The Australian is currently chief executive at Network Rail, which looks after Britain’s existing rail infrastructure, and has been praised for restructuring and commercialising what has been viewed as a cumbersome, costly organisation.

He said: “HS2 is vital for both passengers and the economy and will put the UK in a different league in terms of infrastructure. My first priority will be to rigorously scrutinise costs to ensure they remain under control.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue