“No man is an Island/Entire of itself.”
And if no man (or woman) is an island, then equally, no individual, however good, can embody a multi-billion pound major infrastructure project?
HS2 Limited would beg to differ.
“Simon Kirby has been associated with some major changes to budget management and procurement approaches at Network Rail”
The latest announcement of Simon Kirby as chief executive follows an honourable tradition of high-profile leadership for high-profile infrastructure, stretching back to Alastair Morton and the Channel Tunnel, through John Armitt and Dave Higgins out in Stratford, Neville Simms in relation to Thames Tideway and Boris, on Boris Island.
The usual focus on Mr Kirby’s salary has begun. As the continuing debate around banker bonuses demonstrate, large numbers in any salary package cause controversy.
Particularly where taxpayers are paying, it is right to ask questions as to what payments relate to – and also to examine (in this case, anyway) the literal and metaphorical track record behind them.
Simon Kirby has undoubtedly been associated with some major changes to budget management and procurement approaches at Network Rail, which are precisely the concerns that HS2 will continue to struggle with beneath the Treasury’s spotlight.
Appointments such as this are not made lightly – presumably it will also be the Treasury which has signed off on this addition to the HS2 team.
No man is an island, but if HS2’s management is able to continue to drive changes to the way the project is delivered and effect a wider positive impact on industry culture, then maybe, in time, critics may accept that this could be money well spent.
Jon Hart is a partner at Pinsent Masons