HS2 phase two managing director to depart amid reports of delay to project

The man leading the northern phase of the £56bn HS2 project is set to leave the company at the end of the year to take on the role of program director of the largest public transit investment in Canadian history.

Griffiths is to leave the company after three years and will become programme director leading the management team on the $40bn Metrolinx scheme in Toronto. Along with his family, he is preparing to move overseas at the end of the year. The HS2 boss joined the organisation in 2015 and has been responsible for working with central government and local stakeholders to plan and develop the route for phase two.

The announcement that Paul Griffiths is set to leave HS2 comes on the same day reports circulate that the government is set to delay key legislation needed for phase 2b of the high-speed rail network until at least 2020.

The Department for Transport has confirmed it’s taking into “full account” connections provided by Northern Powerhouse Rail which is aimed at improving links between the main east-west railway line across the Pennines. It said any delays in tabling a bill would not impact on the scheduled completion date of 2033. Phase 2b would lead to the construction of a railways from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds.

HS2’s chief executive officer Mark Thurston has hailed the work accomplished under Griffiths and the progress made on phase two of the high-speed rail network. Plans are said to be already in place to find a successor.

He said: “Phase Two has come a long way under Paul’s leadership. 2a, the section from Birmingham to Crewe, is already in parliament and is on course to receive Royal Assent next year. Phase 2b, the section from Birmingham to Leeds and from Crewe to Manchester, is well advanced in terms of its preparation for Parliament, particularly how it integrates with the existing network and the plans of Northern Powerhouse Rail. The working draft environmental statement for 2b will be published later this autumn.  We are grateful to Paul for the progress he has made with Phase 2 and wish him and his family well in their new adventure.”

Before joining HS2, Griffiths spent six years at Centro as Metro and Sprint programme director and was responsible for the expansion of the light rail system in Birmingham. He has also had roles at Metrolink and construction firm Mace. 

Commenting on his departure, Griffiths said: “Seeing HS2 move considerably closer to reality has been a privilege and will always have a special place in my career.  HS2 is vital for the future of Britain and I will always be proud to have been part of its development.”

HS2’s chairman, Sir Terry Morgan, said: “Phase Two is critical to HS2’s goal of changing the economic geography of Britain, by bringing the towns and cities of the Midlands and the North closer together. Paul has played a vital part in moving that concept nearer to reality. Given its sheer scale and duration, changes of personnel and leadership are inevitable in a project such as HS2 - particularly given the global demand for talented and experienced engineers such as Paul - but our focus remains on delivering a railway for the long-term future of this country.  And that we will do.”

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