REVEALED: HS2 executives among highest paid public servants in UK
They are among the highest paid public servants in the country yet work on a project that may never go ahead.
The Express & Star today reveals the taxpayer-funded HS2 Rich List of 26 executives paid more than £100,000 to work on the proposed high-speed rail link even though not an inch of track has been laid.
Chief executive Simon Kirby is paid £750,000 a year which makes him the country's highest paid public servant.
Mr Kirby joined HS2 Ltd in September from Network Rail just after receiving a £300,000 loyalty bonus.
Eighteen of the 26 earn more than Prime Minister David Cameron who is paid £142,000.
And seven are paid more than £200,000.
Seventeen of the high-flyers them have been recruited in the past year.
HS2 Ltd is the government-owned company behind the 351-mile line that won't be approved by MPs until 2017 at the earliest.
It has offices in Canary Wharf, Westminster and Birmingham.
The figures were released under Freedom of Information law which also shows that 176 staff members are paid more than £50,000.
The revelation has been branded as 'snouts in trough' by a leading campaigner.
But HS2 Ltd says by investing in the best staff will keep costs of the project down.
Managing director of infrastructure Jim Crawford is the second highest paid on the list, earning between 350,000 and £400,000.
Meanwhile programme and strategy director Alistair Kirk earns £250,000 to £300,00.
Chairman Sir David Higgins, who was formerly chief executive of the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority, is paid £240,000 for a three-day week. He was previously paid a pro rata salary £577,000 for around six months when he joined in February last year and worked on the project full-time.
Colin Morris, programme delivery strategy director, previously worked with the Saudi Arabian government on plans for twelve new FIFA 45,000 seat stadiums across the kingdom.
He is paid between £220,000 and £230,000 and joined in January.
Tony Blair's former spin chief Tom Kelly is PR and strategy director at the company and is paid between £200,000-£215,000.
There is also only one woman in the 10 highest paid positions, Commercial Director Beth West who earns £200,000-215,000.
The American joined the company two years ago from Thames Water and previously worked for Transport for London and as project finance banker at both Société Générale and Credit Suisse.
Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, said: "If you already did not know that those in charge of HS2 are running their own gravy train then these revelations surely prove this.
"The chief executive's £750,000 salary is about 28 times that of the average wage in the UK.
"These levels of pay are absolutely disgusting and it is everyday taxpayers who have to pick up the cheque.
"It seems at HS2 there is an increasing number of snouts in an ever-increasing trough."
HS2 will cost £50 billion to build and run from London to Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham.
It will cut a 45-mile swathe through Staffordshire through ancient woodland and historic waterways and golf courses.
Sir David last year said it was 'absolutely essential' to pay high wages to get the right people for the jobs.
"The worst money you can save is skimping on hiring the best people,' he said. "I am determined that we hire the best people.
"We are not going to pay over the odds, we probably won't even pay what the private sector would pay.
"We have to have the flexibility to hire the right people now rather than when something gets into a problem in years to come.
"They won't be on long-term government pensions or long-term tenure.
"At a senior level, you are talking about people above the Prime Minister's salary, in the next six months we need to hire 20 or 30 of those at least to do a project of this size."
HS2 spokesman, Ben Ruse said: "We are determined to deliver HS2 on time and on budget. Investing in the right people now will allow us to reduce construction time and save money in the long term."