Friday, 21 September 2018

Man who delivered two Olympic stadiums

SIR DAVID HIGGINS, chief executive of Network Rail, was the guest speaker at the Henley and Henley Bridge Rotary Clubs’

SIR DAVID HIGGINS, chief executive of Network Rail, was the guest speaker at the Henley and Henley Bridge Rotary Clubs’ joint meeting to celebrate the movement’s founder Paul Harris.

More than 60 Rotarians, their partners and guests attended the annual event, which was held at the Red Lion Hotel.

They were welcomed by Will Busher, president of Henley Rotary Club, and the loyal toast was given by Annie Lathaen, president of the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge.

Sir David, who lives in Henley, joined Network Rail two years ago and admitted he then knew nothing about the industry.

He said investment in the railways was vital, adding: “In the Seventies and Eighties, the rest of the world was spending millions of pounds on their railway networks and what we failed to do was set up a proper funding structure. However, we do have the safest railway in Europe.”

Sir David, an Australian who moved to England in 1999, was previously chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority responsible for construction of the Olympic Park for London 2012, having done the same for the 2000 Sydney Games.

He said one of the most important things was the transport strategy envisaged by then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Sir David recalled: “He said, ‘I am going to extract a lot of money from the Government to improve transport for London’ and the Government and Treasury had to commit that whether or not they won the Olympic Games. It was by far the best transport ever.

“I have been very lucky to go to a lot of the Games around the world and there were some awful ones but it [London] was one of the best.”

Sir David called John Watkins, the landscape architect who created the green space in the Olympic Park, “fantastic”.

He added: “We thought that Beijing was monumental but boring. It was flat with nothing natural there, it was sterile. I came back and thought this is not what we want, not something that is driven by Olympic performance but is like England.”

Rotarian David Tapp gave the vote of thanks.

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