Former HS2 chief Thurston to become new boss of Anglian Water

22 May 2024, 18:55 | Updated: 22 May 2024, 23:02

Mark Thurston, the former boss of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link, will on Thursday be named as the next chief executive of one of Britain’s biggest water companies.

Sky News has learnt that Anglian Water Group, which has more than seven million customers, has recruited Mr Thurston to steer it through, and beyond, a crucial period of negotiations with the industry regulator, Ofwat.

Mr Thurston resigned as the boss of HS2, Europe's biggest infrastructure project, in July 2023 after more than six years in the role.

A former delivery executive involved with the 2012 Olympic Games in London and in the Crossrail project, Mr Thurston began his career as an apprentice on the London Underground.

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At one point - during his tenure at HS2 - he was reportedly Britain's highest-paid public servant.

Mr Thurston will replace Peter Simpson at Anglian Water, and is expected to take up the role during the summer.

Anglian Water, which employs thousands of people, announced last October that Mr Simpson, who had been CEO for a decade, planned to step down this year.

The company, which is the largest water utility by area in Britain, is owned by a consortium of British, Australian and Canadian investors.

They include a joint venture between Dalmore Capital and GLIL Infrastructure, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Australia's Industry Funds Management.

Sources said that Mr Thurston's broad infrastructure experience would be an asset to a company with plans for substantial investment across its business during the next five years.

The UK water industry is in a critical period, with the regulator scheduled to determine pricing and investment plans by the end of the year.

Thames Water, the sector's biggest player, faces an existential crisis after its shareholders decided that it was "uninvestible" after discussions with Ofwat.

Its owners are withholding billions of pounds of previously pledged investment, exacerbating fears that the company will need to be temporarily nationalised.

Last week, Sky News revealed that a string of directors connected to its shareholders had resigned from boards of Thames Water and its holding companies.

The group has a new boss, Chris Weston, who was appointed after the ousting of Sarah Bentley last year.

Thames and many of the other operators in the UK water industry have come under fire for their appalling record of leaks and pumping raw sewage into the country's rivers.

The growing controversy has triggered a clampdown on dividend payments and ministerial promises of tougher oversight.

Last year, Anglian Water pleaded guilty to allowing untreated sewage to flow into the North Sea, prompting a £2.65m fine following a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency.

A spokesman for Anglian Water declined to comment on Wednesday evening.

Mr Thurston could not be reached for comment.