The chairman of the controversial HS2 high speed rail link is joining Gatwick.

Sir David Higgins will become chairman of the airport from January 1 replacing Sir Roy McNulty, who will remain on the board as deputy chairman.

The change at the top comes two months after Gatwick lost out to Heathrow on a battle to win government approval for a new runway.

Sir David was chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority from 2005 to 2011 and chief rexecutive of Network Rail from 2011 to 2014.

He said: “The progress Gatwick has made over recent years under Sir Roy McNulty’s chairmanship has been remarkable.

“It is now firmly established as the UK’s second airport and is a vital part of the London Airports System.

“Whilst the case for Gatwick expansion in the future remains very strong, the challenge for Gatwick now is to continue to invest so it can maximise the use of its existing facilities and so can do even more for Britain in the coming years.

“Uniquely, Gatwick caters for all airline types and I am keen to meet as many of the airlines as possible early in the new year to hear how best we can continue to work together for the benefit of passengers.

“I also recognise the important role that Gatwick plays in the local community. It provides jobs and opportunities for thousands but also, like all airports, it does adversely impact some of its local communities with aircraft noise.

“This is one of the biggest issues facing aviation around the world and I am keen that the airport builds on the good work it has done over recent years in mitigating these impacts.”

Sir Roy said: “I am delighted Sir David has accepted the appointment as the new chairman of Gatwick.

“We worked closely together for over five years at the Olympic Delivery Authority.

“He combines a first class intellect with the ability to give clear strategic direction and make things happen.

“He is exactly the right person to lead Gatwick through the next chapter in its development.

“Gatwick has made significant progress under new ownership over the last seven years since the break-up of BAA. We have shown beyond doubt that competition works.”