Rail boss wants to stay in charge rather than return to Whitehall

Mark Leftly
Monday 12 March 2012 01:00

The current boss of the much-criticised £32bn High Speed Two (HS2) rail link has performed a surprising U-turn and reapplied for her own job.

Applications for the chief executive role at HS2, a line that could eventually link London to Scotland but has angered Middle England, were due on Friday.

Alison Munro, a secondee from the Department for Transport, had made it privately known that she was keen on returning to the public sector when the job was retendered. This is a common practice in the early stages of major government-led projects, to ensure that the old boys' network does not just hand each other juicy roles.

However, it is thought that the Government is keen on her to continue in the job, with one industry source suggesting that there had been "some peer pressure" that might have led Ms Munro to change her mind.

Mark Bayley, the former chief executive at London & Continental Railways, which built the High Speed One Channel Tunnel rail link, is also thought to have thrown his hat into the ring. He is currently working for HS2 as commercial director, which a second source said was "quite a clever bit of positioning" to ensure that his name was in the frame for the top job.

There is also a slightly more advanced process underway for a new chairman, which has now reached the shortlist stage. Sir Adrian Montague, chairman of the private equity group 3i, made the final cut, but is thought unlikely to take the job as he has been lined up to become chairman of the £3bn Green Investment Bank.

Rumours have also circulated that John Armitt, chairman at the Olympic Delivery Authority, and Michael Portillo, the former defence secretary who hosts the BBC's Great British Railway Journeys programme, might also be interested.

There have been a number of juicy jobs available in the rail industry recently. Last week, Richard Parry-Jones, the former Ford engineering boss, was named as chairman-elect of Network Rail. The Crossrail chairman, Terry Morgan, recently renewed his three-year contract, having rejected overtures from the headhunter Odgers Berndtson to look at the same role on HS2.

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