Simon Kirby, the chief executive of HS2 and Britain's highest-paid civil servant, has announced that he is leaving to join Rolls-Royce.
Kirby was drafted in from Network Rail just over two years ago to run delivery of the new £56bn high speed rail line. He was hired on a salary of £750,000, a rate six times higher than his predecessor Alison Munro.
It was announced over the weekend that Kirby is leaving the civil service to become chief operating officer for jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, with HS2 chairman David Higgins paying tribute to the outgoing chief.
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“Simon Kirby used his vast experience to recruit and shape a world-class team which over the coming years and decades will turn HS2 into a reality that will be of lasting benefit to this country,” Higgins said.
Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East meanwhile said Kirby's "exceptional track record in delivering complex major programmes" would help the firm to "strengthen management capability ahead of a period of significant expansion".
Kirby's departure comes amid doubt over the future of the line, with anti-HS2 campaigners saying his exit would be "a serious blow to those who champion HS2".
However, Downing Street sources told The Telegraph over the weekend that new prime minister Theresa May was "100% committed" to the controversial route, with ministers expected to take a decision on the second phase of the line in the autumn.