HS2 CEO to step down after more than six years

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, is to step down from Europe's largest infrastructure project, after six and a half years at the helm.

Thurston, who said leading HS2 had been the highlight of his career, will leave the organisation in the autumn.

The announcement comes as phase One of Britain’s new high speed rail network, between London and the West Midlands, is at peak construction.

The organisation will soon begin to transition its focus and skills to railway systems, including signalling, track and power. 

To ensure continuity through the coming years, Thurston will hand over to new leadership who will lead the transition to the next stage of the project. 

Thurston said: “Leading this organisation has been the highlight of my career and a privilege from the first day - the programme has come such a long way and I want to thank everyone who has worked on the project during my time.  

“The next 18-24 months will see the project move into an exciting new stage. 

"I have agreed with the Board that someone else should lead the organisation and programme through what will be another defining period for HS2.” 

Mark joined HS2 in March 2017, shortly after the organisation secured Royal Assent for Phase One, giving the powers to build the first section of the railway.  

Mark built the capability of the organisation to enable it to be an effective project manager for the delivery of Europe’s largest infrastructure project. 

In 2020 he secured government’s approval to move into major construction works and fully mobilised a workforce which stands at 28,500 today, including 1,200 apprentices. 

Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, thanked the CEO for his work progressing "Britain’s most transformative rail project" over the last six years. 

"As well as successfully overseeing the start of construction, he has ensured HS2 has created tens of thousands of skilled jobs and apprenticeships across the country," Harper said.  

“As HS2 enters its next phase, the government remains committed to unlocking all the benefits of this flagship infrastructure scheme – increasing rail capacity, connecting communities and growing the economy." 

Sir Jon Thompson, Chairman of HS2 Ltd, thanked Thurston for his "leadership and service".

He said: “Mark’s leadership has been critical to the success of the HS2 programme. 

"In his time as CEO the project has moved from a scheme in development to a major construction project that employs 28,500 people across the country. 

“His legacy is building the foundations of HS2 which will bring growth and prosperity to towns and cities across the Midlands and the North.” 

Construction of the first phase of HS2 is now at its height, with major works taking place at over 350 sites between London and the West Midlands. 

Along the route, six tunnelling machines have been launched, works on the longest railway bridge in the UK (the Colne Valley Viaduct) are well underway and the 'Marston Box' rail bridge has been successfully slid into place over the M42 motorway in the most ambitious project of its kind anywhere in the world.  

Additionally, 19 construction sites are now operating completely diesel-free and nearly one million new trees have been planted alongside the railway.  

Over 3,000 UK-based businesses are already engaged in HS2’s supply chain – making up 97% of the total – and 61% of contracts have been awarded to small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in every region of the UK.

The award of the rolling stock contracts, worth around £2 billion, helped secure a next generation of UK train building in Derby, Newton Aycliffe and Crewe.  

Thurston will leave HS2 Ltd at the end of September when Sir Jon Thompson will become Executive Chairman for an interim period while a new Chief Executive is recruited. 

He will be supported at Board level by his deputy chair, Elaine Holt. 

If you would like to contact Sarah Walker about this, or any other story, please email