THE highest-paid civil servant in the country, in his role as boss of the controversial new high speed railway, has defended his £750,000 salary.

Simon Kirby, who lives in south Cumbria, is chief executive of HS2.

He has said he is worth his wage because he would deliver the project on time and on budget. 

The salary is five times more than the prime minister's. 

Mr Kirby told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that his high salary, and others on the team, were justified due to the complexity of the project. 

He said: "We're recruiting people from all over the world to create the most capable team to deliver a programme of this scale. 

"This is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe. 

"For my role there was an open competition. Others decided I was the person to do this role and others will decide my performance in this role. That's for others to judge, to be frank. 

"I'm really proud to be running a programme of this scale and I'm really proud of the team that we're building."

It comes in the week that Chancellor George Osborne has come under fire after he urged Chinese firms to pitch for contracts to build the controversial high speed rail link.