Cumbria’s water supplier United Utilities has named former chief executive of Network Rail and The Olympic Delivery Authority as its chairman designate.

The company said Sir David Higgins, who is currently chairman of Gatwick Airport, will succeed Dr John McAdam as chairman when he steps down from the role on December 31 this year.

Sir David, who was chair of HS2 until August last year, has become a non-executive director with immediate effect and will also become a member of the group’s Nomination Committee.
Mark Clare, United Utilities' senior independent director, who led the succession process, said he was “delighted” with the appointment.

“The Board believes his substantial infrastructure experience, engineering background and understanding of regulated businesses make him a strong hire,” he said.

“We are delighted that he has accepted the appointment and the Board looks forward to working under his leadership to deliver the company's 2020-25 business plan and beyond.”

Sir David is also a non-executive director of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where he chairs the remuneration committee and is a member of the risk committee but will be stepping down in December this year.

The announcement of his appointment comes just over a week before United Utilities reveals its full financial results for the year.

The company has already it is anticipating a multi-million-pound hit to profits due to the 2018 heatwave.

In a trading update released in March it warned that operating profits would be hit by last year’s weather, along with guaranteed minimum pension equalisation and a restructuring of the business.

However, the company said it was trading in line with expectations, buoyed by having been awarded fast-track status by regulator Ofwat following its initial assessment of the company’s business plans for the 2020-25 period.

United Utilises – which will publish its full results on May 23 – is currently delivering the 300m West Cumbria Water Supplies project, that will bring more reliable and sustainable water supplies into Allerdale and Copeland.

The scheme will link the area to Thirlmere Reservoir, and involves the construction of 100km of new pipeline, a new treatment plant at Williamsgate, two new pumping stations and two new underground service reservoirs.

The project began in spring 2017 and will be completed by 2022.