HS2 Leadership Shake-up: Pay Structure Overhaul Sparks Controversy

HS2 Leadership Shake-up: Pay Structure Overhaul Sparks Controversy

The prospect of the next HS2 chief potentially earning more than their predecessor, despite substantial project cutbacks, was discussed in a recent parliamentary session.

Former HS2 chief Mark Thurston, who departed in September, received £676,000 in the last financial year, prompting discussions about the remuneration for the incoming CEO.

High Pay Recommendations Amid Project Curtailment:

Sir Jon Thompson, currently overseeing HS2 until a new chief is appointed, informed the public accounts committee that he has advised government officials to consider a higher pay deal for the next HS2 chief.

Despite the project facing significant reductions, the proposal aims to create a reward structure that strongly incentivizes meeting schedules and minimizing costs.

Proposed Changes to Reward Structure: Lower Base, Higher Incentives:

In response to queries about the CEO search, Sir Jon explained that the primary outstanding issue is the question of salary, currently under consideration by ministers.

He recommended modifying the reward structure to include a lower base salary compared to Mr. Thurston but with increased opportunities for higher earnings contingent on meeting project targets.

History of High Director Salaries at HS2:

HS2 has been known for generous salaries, with top directors receiving an average of nearly £10 million annually.

Mark Thurston’s pay alone witnessed a more than 9% increase last year, rising from £618,144 to £676,000.

These discussions unfold as rail minister Huw Merriman indicates a potential increase in the cost projection for the London to Birmingham line.

Rail Minister’s Cost Projection and Diverted Funds:

Rail minister Huw Merriman shared in Parliament that the cost projection for HS2’s London to Birmingham line could escalate to £57 billion, up from the previous £54 billion estimate.

However, the government maintains optimism that the project, now expected to open in 2033, could still be delivered within a range of £45 billion to £54 billion.

Notably, the decision to cancel HS2’s Birmingham to Manchester leg has redirected funds, with £8.3 billion allocated for resurfacing 5,000 miles of roads in the next 11 years as part of the Network North initiative.

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