Outgoing Network Rail boss Sir David Higgins is to take over as chairman of HS2 Ltd following the announcement that Doug Oakervee would be stepping down at the start of next year.

In a statement, Oakervee said he was “delighted” by the appointment and believed that Higgins was “the right man” to take the project to the next stage.

In the same announcement, the current Network Rail chief executive said his first job would be to carefully investigate the project’s costs – a reference to the most recent criticism about the apparent ballooning budget for the high-speed line.

Mr Oakervee, who has also been chairman of Crossrail, will see out the rest of the year, including the introduction of the government’s Hybrid Bill, which will pave the way for the start of Phase 1 between London and Birmingham in 2017.

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said: “The fantastic work that Doug Oakervee has delivered as chairman of HS2 Ltd is testament to the experience and expertise that he brought to this role.

“His energy and professionalism have ensured that the detailed proposals for Phase 1 of the country’s first high speed line north of London will be introduced to Parliament on schedule later this year.

“The appointment of Sir David Higgins to replace Doug Oakervee ensures that we will continue to have leaders at the heart of HS2 who have a track record of delivery.

“His experience at both Network Rail and as chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority – where he oversaw construction of the magnificent Olympic Park, a legacy which will be enjoyed by generations – will be essential to ensure we deliver HS2 on time and on budget.”

Sir David Higgins, who will take over full time in March 2014, said: “I am delighted to be taking up this role. Working at Network Rail I know the challenges we have ahead with capacity on the railways – they are real and we need to take action now. I also know the significant benefits that improved journey times between our northern cities will bring not just to the north, but the UK economy as a whole.”