HS2 CEO: Next boss could earn more than predecessor's £677k salary despite project being curtailed - it's laughable
The next boss of HS2 could be paid more than predecessor Mark Thurston - despite the project being curtailed by Rishi Sunak
The announcement that the next boss of the HS2 high-speed rail project could be paid more than the predecessor Mark Thurston, despite the project being curtailed, is outrageous and laughable. Thurston was paid a salary of £617,300 in the 2021-22 financial year and also received benefits of £5,400, according to HS2 Ltd's latest annual report. He received £677,000 in the 2022/23 financial year, meaning that the next CEO could receive a salary more than this amount if “all necessary targets” are met.
The potential of the new CEO of the rail project earning a huge sum, more than the boss before, is outrageous. The CEO earning a fat sum of more than £600,000 for a project that has been cut, seen so many delays and changes, and has been slammed as a joke by many.
Sir Jon Thompson, executive chairman of HS2 Ltd, told the Public Accounts Committee the salary to be offered for the vacant role is being assessed by ministers and the next CEO will have “more opportunity to earn a higher salary”.
He said: “My recommendation to ministers is that we change the reward structure so that it’s much more heavily incentivised towards meeting the schedule and delivering to the lowest possible cost. So it will be a lower base than Mr Thurston but there will be more opportunity to earn a higher salary if you meet all the necessary targets on schedule and cost. That is currently under consideration by ministers.”
It comes after Rishi Sunak announced on 4 October that he was ordering the cancellation of “the rest of the HS2 project”. His announcement meant that preparatory work for the high-speed line north of Birmingham, both to Manchester and the East Midlands, will be halted immediately.
Meanwhile, HS2’s London terminus at Euston will be completed but under the management of a new government-appointed development company instead of HS2 Ltd. The new plan will be for a six-platform station despite it initially being scoped to have 11 platforms. The government had earlier put a two year pause on the Euston project as the expected cost had hit £4.8bn while the budget was only £2.6bn.
Despite the cuts and pretty much the failure of the project, there are talks of the next CEO earning more than the other one. Seems right.
Not only do the CEO’s get huge salaries for the project but also the staff members. In September the Telegraph reported that the average HS2 staff member is paid more than double the UK’s national average wage according to the rail body’s accounts. Its latest annual report said that the median salary for all of HS2’s 2,000 staff members was £67,687, which crept up to £71,232 when benefits were included. This is more than double the median annual wage for the UK with the average worker receiving just over £33,000 a year.
The HS2 project has been a shambles, destroyed a lot of our environment and wildlife, seen setbacks and changes, but still the prospect of the next CEO earning a fat salary, more than the other one, is there. No doubt it will happen as it is always the same old CEOs earning hundreds of thousands of pounds while the actual project, initiative and firm fail to deliver.