Fellows robes

Simon Kirby

Oration

Presented by: Damian Waters

Honourable Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Simon Kirby for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Simon Kirby is CEO of HS2 Ltd, the publicly-funded company charged with delivering the new high-speed rail line between London, Birmingham and the North – including its design, engineering, construction and operation. 

HS2 is the biggest strategic intervention in the life of our nation for decades. It is currently the largest infrastructure project in Europe – and possibly the world – aiming to increase rail capacity in the South, and better connect the cities in the North.

HS2 will cost UK taxpayers upwards of £50 billion, and will help to grow Britain’s economy – and rebalance the economies of the North and the South. It will also act as a catalyst for regional growth and regeneration. 

During construction, which begins next year, HS2 will create around 25,000 jobs, support a further 100,000 jobs, and create 2,000 apprenticeships. It will also affect a step-change on the way infrastructure projects are delivered in the UK with a focus on high performance, innovation and value for money, sourcing the best in world-wide design and construction techniques.

The good news is that Simon is more than up to the Herculean task of delivering the HS2 project on time and on budget, having already delivered an array of large enhancement and renewal infrastructure projects. He spent 10 years at Network Rail, where he was a Board member and Managing Director of Infrastructure Projects. 

These projects include the £550 million refurbishment and renovation of Kings Cross, with its Western Concourse, the largest single-span structure in Europe, which opened in March 2012 in time to welcome the world for the London Olympics. He also managed the £895 million scheme at Reading to unblock one of the country’s worst bottlenecks and construct a new station plus he oversaw the completion of the longest new domestic railway line in Britain for 100 years, the £300 million Airdrie to Bathgate line.

Simon was also responsible for the £130 million, ten-year restoration of the iconic Forth River Bridge, and the completion of the first phase of the £6.5 billion Thameslink project, with new stations built at Blackfriars and Farringdon in London. While other projects included the removal of a major bottleneck on the East Coast mainline with the completion of the Hitchin flyover, and the £100 million re-signalling and modernisation of the approaches to Nottingham station.

Before joining Network Rail, Simon held various positions in the defence industry within Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering, GEC Marconi and BAE Systems, and he is now a Fellow of the Institute of Civil Engineers (FICE), Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS) and the Association of Project Management (APM).

In addition to his leadership of HS2, Simon is a director of the Major Projects Association and the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering, a consortium of major rail engineering employers, which is developing new apprenticeship standards to equip young people with the skills, knowledge and outlook needed to make their mark in rail careers from day one. 

Simon is passionate about skills development and creating a more diverse workforce in the railway industry. This is already evident at HS2 where over 40% of employees in this major infrastructure project are women.

Under his stewardship, contractors working on the high speed railway will also be obliged to create new apprenticeships or graduate opportunities, helping produce the workforce required to deliver and operate the railway in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time.

Simon has achieved much during his career to date, and the University is proud to have contributed in some part to his success, by providing his undergraduate education in Mechanical and Production Engineering when he was a student here between 1985 and 1988.

Simon has said that he “loves engineering because it’s about creating things – cars, planes, infrastructure – so it has a positive impact on society”. Through HS2, he will be able to help re-balance the UK economy, create opportunities for growth in the North, boost jobs and skills in the UK and set a bench-mark for future projects – all of which support a brighter future for the graduates here today.

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I present Simon Kirby, this most distinguished citizen of Liverpool, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.