Politicians and businesses in the north of England have said UK infrastructure chief Lord Adonis could have a conflict of interest if his nomination as head of London’s Crossrail 2 project went ahead.
They fear plans for “northern powerhouse” rail — the east-west high-speed link between Liverpool and Newcastle — could slip if Lord Adonis were simultaneously championing Crossrail while deciding which national projects should take prominence.
Tony Lloyd, interim mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Andrew is a man of integrity but people in the north would see clear conflict if the person in charge of Crossrail 2 is also in charge of the national programme. We must have clarification from central government on this.”
Louise Ellman, who chairs the transport select committee, said she would be seeking a meeting with Lord Adonis urgently.
The MP for Liverpool Riverside said Lord Adonis had to demonstrate he would not favour the capital. “I would like him to show how he remains committed to the north as well as London.
“He has always shown an awareness of the importance of infrastructure in the north to regeneration.”
Several business leaders in the north also questioned the nomination, though none wished to be named.
George Osborne, the chancellor, nominated the Labour peer along with Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary. Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, was also involved. Lord Adonis must be approved by the London Assembly and the Transport for London board.
Lord Adonis is interim chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, which advises the government on priorities. Its report in March called for Crossrail 2 and so-called HS3, the line between Liverpool and Newcastle that is vital to government wishes to build a “northern powerhouse” linking the north’s big cities together.
Crossrail will cost £27bn and the northern line, dubbed HS3, at least as much. Some fear the government does not have the money to build both.
Lord Adonis wants legislation to be put to parliament by late 2019 so Crossrail 2 could open in 2033. It would link the suburban railway network from Wimbledon to Tottenham Hale via a new tunnel under London.
The commission also found that “the north needs immediate and very significant investment for action now and a plan for longer-term transformation to reduce journey times, increase capacity and improve reliability”.
Its rail system should integrate with HS2, the north-south high-speed line that should arrive in 2033. It also called for an “early boost in capacity on the M62, the north’s most important east-west link”.
Transport for the North, a body set up by the government, is pushing on with the plan s but has money only for feasibility studies. Journey speeds across the north are half those in the south-east.
The government could replace Lord Adonis on the NIC once legislation has been set it up on a statutory basis.
Mr McLoughlin said: “We are investing billions in projects right across the country because we know good transport links help people get around and get on.”
Lord Adonis said on Tuesday: “Without Crossrail 2, London will grind to a halt. There are no greater challenges facing London than overcrowding on the transport network and the city’s acute housing crisis. Crossrail 2 will help tackle both.”
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