HS2 Ltd struggles to find new chair

Ministers have cut the working hours expected of a new chair of HS2 Ltd as the Department for Transport (DfT) relaunched attempts to replace Allan Cook, who left the role last summer.

The DfT said the criteria for the role has been updated ‘to attract leaders from a wider field of sectors and backgrounds ready to take on the challenge of leading this transformational project’.

The post was first advertised in April 2021 with June pencilled in for interviews but no appointment was made. Where the role was previously advertised at an annual salary of £200,000 for three days a week, this has now been reduced to two days.

A DfT spokesperson said changes to the criteria ‘allowed a change in the required time commitment, where feedback from our first search tells us we will secure interest from a larger pool of exceptional candidates’.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: ‘We’ve relaunched our search with new criteria designed to ensure we recruit the best and brightest candidate, ready to take on this challenge and drive forward transformation across the nation.’

The changes are:

  • ‘a new criterion on strategic leadership, emphasising the importance of working effectively with leaders from across government and other sectors to harness the transformational benefits of the programme.
  • ‘a refocusing of the criterion on required experience to reflect the wider board strengthening around infrastructure delivery and to widen the pool of potential candidates in order to secure a world class leader’.

The DfT also announced that transport secretary Grant Shapps has appointed Sir Jon Thompson as deputy chair of HS2 Ltd.

It said the role will include chairing HS2 Ltd until a permanent replacement is found and will be an extension of the duties he has held as a non-executive director since April 2021.

He has previously served as permanent secretary at both the Ministry of Defence and HM Revenue and Customs.

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