Consortium proposes "Crossrail 2" for London

The proposed line would connect Chelsea to Hackney through central London.

A consortium of business interests, led by Labour peer Lord Adonis has announced its proposal for "Crossrail 2" (pdf), a line stretching from the south-west of London to the north-east. It's a long way from reality at the moment — even though it has powerful friends the group has no official power, and the most optimistic projections don't see it opening until around 2035 — but it is already clear that it, or something like it, is sorely needed.

I've knocked up a rough map of the proposed route:

(I've missed magenta since the Olympics, so thought the tube map could do with some more. Click to embiggen)

The line as proposed would take a significant amount of strain off the Victoria line), with four/five intersections at Victoria, Seven Sisters, Tottenham Hale, and a joint Euston and Kings Cross St Pancras station.

(Yes, the trains would be long enough that the platform would have one end at Euston and the other at Kings Cross. Crossrail 1 has similar stations, one at Farringdon/Barbican and another at Liverpool Street/Moorgate, and even Thameslink, after its recent upgrades, has a station with entrances on both sides of the Thames.)

It would also link happily to the High-Speed 2 terminus in Euston, put a new station in the railway black-hole of inner Chelsea, and join up the two southern spurs of the Northern and District line. The consortium has clearly put a lot of thought into the plans, and if someone can be found to stump up the estimated £12bn cost, it will fix London's public transport congestion for at least, ooh, a year or so. After that, London could have its south London monorail or its cross-river tram.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.