David Higgins (businessman)

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Sir David Higgins
D higgins.png
David Hartmann Higgins

1954 (age 66–67)
Years active1977–present
TitleChairman of United Utilities (January 2020)

Sir David Hartmann Higgins (born 1954) is an Australian-British businessman, the Chairman of United Utilities Group[1] (since 1 January 2020), Chairman of Gatwick Airport[2] (since 1 January 2017), and the former Non-Executive Chairman of High Speed Two (HS2)[3] (March 2014 to July 2018). He was Chief Executive of the London 2012 Summer Olympics Delivery Authority[4] and Network Rail.[5]


Higgins was educated at Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview, then gained a degree in Civil engineering at the University of Sydney, residing at St John's College; and a diploma at the Securities Institute of Australia.[6] After graduation, he worked in the United Kingdom and Africa, before returning to Australia in 1983, and joining the international property and construction company Lend Lease Corporation in 1985. In 1995 he was appointed managing director and chief executive, when the corporation's developments included the 2000 Summer Olympics Sydney Olympic Park, and the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, England.[6]

From March 2003, Higgins was Chief Executive of English Partnerships, the UK government national regeneration agency. Higgins was appointed Chief Executive Designate of the Olympic Delivery Authority from December 2005,[7] and appointed Chief Executive with effect from 30 March 2006. In this role he was paid £394,999 a year, making him the highest paid Quango boss in the UK.[8]

On 28 September 2010, it was announced that he was leaving the Olympic Delivery Authority to take up the role of chief executive of Network Rail, taking over from outgoing chief executive Iain Coucher, and with effect from February 2011.[5] Higgins was widely respected for his work at Network Rail, including by the railway trade unions; he was succeeded as chief executive by Mark Carne in April 2014.[9]

In 2014, Higgins took over as chairman of HS2[3] Ltd from Douglas Oakervee. At HS2, he successfully oversaw the introduction and subsequent passing of the 400-page London-Birmingham High Speed Rail hybrid bill enabling the compulsory purchase and land acquisition for securing the chosen alignment.[10][11] As of 2015, Higgins was paid a salary of between £240,000 and £244,999 by the department, making him one of the 328 most highly paid people in the British public sector at that time.[12] Higgins stood down from HS2 in 2018.[13]

In 2017, Higgins took over from Sir Roy McNulty as chairman of Gatwick Airport Limited.[14][15]

In 2020, he succeeded Dr John McAdam as chairman of United Utilities Group[16] and also stood down from his role as a non-executive director at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a role he had held since September 2014.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Higgins is married with two children. His hobbies include hiking and outdoor pursuits.[6]


He was knighted in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to regeneration.[18]

In 2012, Higgins was the chair of the 2012 British Construction Industry Awards judging panel which celebrated its 25th anniversary of rewarding excellence in UK construction delivery.[19]


  1. ^ "United Utilities - Our board". www.unitedutilities.com. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  2. ^ "Board of directors". Gatwick Airport. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b "New chairman named for HS2 firm". BBC News. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  4. ^ "About the ODA". Olympic Delivery Authority. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Olympic 2012 boss David Higgins leaves for Network Rail". BBC News. 28 September 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Kelso, Paul (18 January 2008). "Australian fixer setting the pace to London 2012". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  7. ^ "Higgins named as ODA chief executive". Contract Journal. 23 November 2005. Retrieved 8 May 2008.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Quango chiefs' salaries revealed". BBC News. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  9. ^ "Network Rail appoints new boss Mark Carne". BBC News. BBC. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  10. ^ "HS2 hybrid bill launched in UK". www.tunneltalk.com. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  11. ^ "HS2 finally given green light in overwhelming Parliament vote". www.railtechnologymagazine.com. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Senior officials 'high earners' salaries as at 30 September 2015 - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  13. ^ Smale, Katherine (26 February 2018). "HS2 begins chairman search as Sir David Higgins stands down". New Civil Engineer. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  14. ^ by. "Sir David Higgins to become chair of Gatwick Airport – Construction Manager". Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  15. ^ "Board of directors | Gatwick Airport". www.gatwickairport.com. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  16. ^ "United Utilities appoints Non-Executive Director and Chairman designate" (PDF). Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Commonwealth Bank announces changes to the Bank's Board of Directors". www.commbank.com.au. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  18. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 1.
  19. ^ "Sir David Higgins to chair British Construction Industry Awards 2012 judges". www.nce.co.uk. New Civil Engineer. 6 January 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2013.

External links[edit]