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Network Rail's Sir David Higgins takes over HS2 chair

Current Network Rail chief Sir David Higgins will take over next year’s chairmanship of HS2 Limited, the government-funded company responsible for the development of the high-speed rail between London and Birmingham.

Sir David, who has already announced stepping down from his position at the Network Rail, will work together with the chief executive of HS2 Limited Alison Munro, joining the project first on a one-day-a-week basis. He will take up the duty on 1 January 2014, at which stage he will be receiving a pay of £950 a day.

He will later take up the post full-time, starting in March, with an annual salary of £591,000. It is expected he will be later working for HS2 Limited three days per week.

Before working for the Network Rail, Sir David served as a chief executive of the UK's Olympic Delivery Authority.

The announcement was made today during a transport conference at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London.

Speaking during the event, Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander has defended the HS2 scheme, stressing its necessity and potential economic benefits.

Recently, the scheme has been criticised by many, including its former labour supporters.

However, according to Lib Dem Mr Alexander, the HS2 is "absolutely essential to the long-term future of the UK’s economy" and "It would be absolute folly to neglect these long-term benefits for short-term political reasons."

However, he admitted, the government might not be able to push the HS2 Hybrid Bill through Parliament before the 2015 General Election.

In response to the recent withdrawal of support of the HS2 expressed by many Labour Party representatives, Mr Alexander said it is entirely all right to keep a project of such a scale under close scrutiny.

Alison Munro, the chief executive of HS2 Limited later reassured that despite the estimated costs of the project have increased, the HS2 will be delivered on time and within the budget.

"We have never asked for a blank cheque, neither do we want or need one,” Munro said. "We fully understand the need to keep costs around the project under control. We look forward to bringing HS2 home, on time and within budget."

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