The Department for Transport has launched a recruitment campaign to find the next chair for the High Speed Two rail project and is offering £200,000 a year for the part-time role.
However the figure is £30,000-£35,000 a year less than the remuneration package of current chair Allan Cook, who announced he would not seek a further three-year term as chair in February.
HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston is officially the UK's highest-paid civil servant, according to the Cabinet Office's annual high-earners list. His salary bracket as of September last year was £620,000-£624,999.
Cost estimates for HS2 vary, but last year a government review chaired by former project chair Douglas Oakervee said the eventual price tag could be as high as £106bn. The National Audit Office said at the time that DfT did not know what the cost would be but pointed to an “emerging estimate” of up to £88bn.
HS2 Ltd is wholly owned by DfT and Cook is the seventh chair the company has had in its 12-year history. He moved into the role in December 2018 after Sir Terry Morgan resigned amid fallout over delays to London’s Crossrail project, which he also chairs.
Announcing his decision to step down as HS2 chair from July, Cook said he expected the planned high-speed rail network to be built “in full”, with its first phase linking London with Birmingham and subsequent phases continuing to Crewe, Manchester and Leeds.
“I have a number of months before my departure but, with tunnelling due to start in the summer and as we enter a new phase of the project, the department will start the search for my successor who can give their full focus to the future momentum of the project as the railway expands further north,” he said.
The advertisement for Cook’s successor describes the chair of HS2 as a “challenging and unique role” and stresses that the recruitment campaign, which is being run by consultancy Korn Ferry, as a “global search for a world-class candidate”.
Key qualities include the ability to run a board that can “grip major programmes”; an unwavering commitment to safety, coupled with the ability to foster confidence in HS2’s “capability to deliver a culture where delivery to cost and schedule is paramount”; and good media skills.
The advertisement also stresses the importance of being “politically astute” and having the ability to “build the confidence of and provide assurance to government and ministers in the delivery of a transformational infrastructure programme”.
The role is open to applications until 5pm on 20 May.